Apple announced Monday that it sold 5 million iPhone 5 handsets over the device's first long weekend of availability, breaking previous sales records. But even that heady figure was a disappointment if you listened to tech analysts, who predicted that Apple would sell as many as twice that number at launch.
“Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible, and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a prepared statement. “While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”
Five million units in just three days is quite an accomplishment, and it puts the evolutionary iPhone 5 well above its equally evolutionary predecessor, the iPhone 4S, in terms of launch shipments. That device sold 4 million units during its launch period a year earlier.
But 5 million units sold pales in comparison with what historically clueless analysts claimed Apple would sell in the days before the device actually went on sale. A Bloomberg report quoted Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, claiming that Apple would sell 6 million to 6.5 million units at launch. He called the 5 million figure “lower than what people had expected.” But no one was off more than Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, as usual. He buoyantly predicted Apple would sell 6 to 10 million iPhone 5s.
Regardless of these loopy predictions, Apple has little to be embarrassed about. The firm can always rely on its eager fans to be the perennial repeat buyers they are, and it's unlikely many new customers were included in that 5 million figure. Apple also had a lot of help selling the device, which was available not just through the consumer electronic giant’s own retail and online stores but also through almost every conceivable wireless carrier, big or small, and at many other retailers, in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Many more countries will come onboard in the days and weeks ahead, which should keep iPhone 5 mania running strong throughout the holiday period.
Apple is going to need this kind of full frontal attack to remain relevant. Apple’s biggest competitor and the market leader, Samsung, sold twice as many smartphone handsets in Q2 2012, and its Galaxy S III smartphone sold 10 million units in June 2012 alone and 20 million units overall. That phone had preorders in excess of 9 million, compared with just 2 million for the iPhone 5.
As for the rest of the market, let’s just say it’s a two-horse race so far. Windows Phone, by comparison, accounts for just single-digit market share, and the biggest player in this market, Nokia, has sold just 7 million Lumia handsets overall since late 2011. That said, the firm did sell 4 million Lumia 900 handsets in Q2 2012 alone.
Meanwhile, tech analysts will soon have another opportunity to be tested: They say that Apple might sell as many as 58 million units of the iPhone 5 by the end of the year, according to an average compiled by Bloomberg.