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About Apple Watch Sales — or Lack Thereof

There’s been a whole lot of play in the media about the alleged collapse of Apple Watch sales. Supposedly millions were sold during the first few weeks, and over time, demand fell precipitously. Well, at least according to a market research firm that most of us previously never heard of known as Slice Intelligence. The firm, based in Palo Alto, CA, claims to use a panel of 2.5 million people to tabulate online purchases in the U.S.

Well, as of July, sales have supposedly fallen to below the 10,000-per-day level, and that might have been reason enough for the recent slide in Apple’s stock price. Wall Street is particularly sensitive to such reports, real, fake, or somewhere in between.

Now I have no idea whether or not Slice’s figures are accurate. I have no idea whether Apple will reveal Apple Watch sales figures during the quarterly conference call with financial analysts on Tuesday, July 21. Last quarter, the question wasn’t even asked.

Before we get there, however, it’s so unfortunate that the media quotes unconfirmed statements of this sort without asking the right questions. Slice Intelligence might be right on with their report, but they don’t have a track record for accuracy. The company is still too new. There are also limitations to the results, because they are supposedly based strictly on online sales in the U.S. As you know, Apple brought the Apple Watch to the Apple Stores in June, which means there are retail sales that aren’t being counted, not to mention sales around the world in a number of countries.

This doesn’t mean Apple Watch sales haven’t fallen now that demand has apparently caught up with supplies. It may be significant how Apple deals with demand for their smartwatch in the press release about the financials or in their comments during the conference call. A lack of information would appear to confirm suspicions — or fears — that the product isn’t quite as successful as they hoped it’d be.

But there is also no history of a successful smartwatch. That Pebble sold more than a million units in a couple of years, or that Samsung sold hundreds of thousands in a single year, indicates at best tepid demand. This may indeed be a product category that is still developing, and the use case of the Apple Watch may take years to make.

Remember, too, that sales of the original iPhone weren’t so terrific. Don’t forget that Steve Jobs said that Apple would be happy to have 1% of the market by the end of 2008, and Apple exceeded that by a healthy margin. The tablet market didn’t exist until the iPad arrived in 2010, and, it’s not yet certain how far it’ll go now that the surge is history, but maybe sales will improve as the product becomes more of a productivity tool with iOS 9, and the replacement cycle truly begins in earnest.

And I haven’t considered a rumored iPad Pro, with a 12.9-inch display, since it obviously doesn’t exist, at least not yet.

But Apple Watch right how is little more than an expensive accessory for the iPhone. Yes, it does lots of things, more than other smartwatches, and most reviews appear pretty favorable. But it’s also true that some of the tech pundits I’ve talked with make it quite clear that, if they didn’t need one to continue to cover the product, they might not have bought an Apple Watch.

It’s a version 1.0 product and I fully expect that a future generation, in the next few years, will be self-contained and won’t depend on a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone. It will have all the hardware you need to do its thing, including an LTE chip (or whatever the next generation is called). Indeed, the iPhone might, at that time, be capable of serving as a larger display for the Apple Watch, the ultimate turnaround.

Clearly Apple has made a long-term investment in the success of Apple Watch. That we will see a version 2.0 WatchOS about six months after the first version demonstrates that upgrades will come fast, and the things that don’t work so well now, such as third-party app performance, will only get better as more native apps are built. Usability glitches will no doubt also be fixed.

Some might suggest Apple released the product too soon, and maybe should have waited till fall. But giving it a shakedown cruise for months before the crucial holiday season might have made sense from a marketing standpoint. After all, the updates will be free, and those who suffered through some early defects will have a far more smoothly functioning gadget. But that doesn’t mean Apple Watch owners are beta testers. The technology is new, and moving fast.

As for the Night Owl, I’m not at all convinced yet that I need an Apple Watch. My $12.88 Walmart calendar watch keeps time within a second or so, compared to my iMac, and I don’t know that I need the extra notifications and other “complications” on a watch. I work in a home office, and thus have ready access to all my gear. But those who travel a lot or work at a “normal” office may find the situation altogether different, not to mention those who want a more granular physical fitness experience than I.