Apple Watch first day pre-orders top 1.2M in U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of the orders were for the entry-level Sport

apple watches
Credit: Susie Ochs

Apple sold about 1.2 million Watches in the U.S. last Friday, the kick-off of pre-orders for the wearable, a market research firm estimated.

According Palo Alto, Calif.-based Slice Intelligence, 957,000 U.S. customers ordered an average of 1.3 Watches each on April 10, for a total of 1.24 million devices. Those orders were for an average of $504 per Watch, putting $627 million on Apple's books.

Most -- 62% -- purchased the entry-level Sport model, which lists for $349 and $399, while the remainder bought the mid-tier stainless steel-cased Watch edition. Nearly three-quarters of all pre-orders (71%) were for the pricier 42mm case, which runs $50 more than the smaller 38mm.

The Apple Watch sold out almost as soon as pre-orders began at midnight PT on Friday; shipping dates for new orders quickly slipped into June.

Apple has not touted pre-order or sales figures, and its financial reporting structure buries Watch revenue in a category that also includes the iPod, Apple TV and Beats Electronics, which will make it difficult for analysts to tease out numbers.

Slice, however, relies on a pool of approximately 2 million U.S. consumers to generate its estimates. Those consumers have opted in to Slice's services or apps -- including the same-named shopper's assistant app for iOS and Android -- or those of partners that license the firm's technology, said Jaimee Minney, the company's head of marketing, and thus give Slice access to their email inboxes. Slice sniffs through the inboxes, then spots and copies emailed receipts for online orders.

It based the Watch estimates on a sampling of those emailed receipts, specifically of 9,080 Americans who had pre-ordered the new device.

Slice is a newcomer to market research -- it entered the space in September 2014 -- and the Watch data was, in fact, the first the company released publicly, said Minney in an interview. Slice had produced estimates for the iPhone 6's early sales last fall, and then used the holiday season to compare its data with numbers from the likes of Amazon and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"We have every reason to believe that [the Watch estimates] are valid," said Minney, citing Slice's internally-measured performance in the past.

The 1.2 million Watches pre-ordered may not translate into 1.2 million sales, as, with the long lag times before shipping -- and after customers have a chance to make an appointment in an Apple store to see the device up close and personal -- some may cancel their orders. That's especially true if they pre-ordered both a 38mm and 42mm model sight unseen, then drop one or the other later.

Because Slice is able to monitor shopping over time, it was also able to claim that 72% of those who pre-ordered a Watch had also bought an Apple product -- iPhone, iPad or Mac -- in the last two years, and that about a third had bought two such products in the time span. About one in five had pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus last year.

Those figures, which suggest that early Watch customers were among the Apple faithful who have already heavily invested in the Cupertino, Calif. company's ecosystem, were no surprise: The Watch requires an iPhone.

Slice also pegged online orders for the new 12-in. Retina-equipped MacBook at just under 50,000 for opening day.

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