Apple Watch sales: What Tim Cook let slip

'A great start' for the Watch according to Cupertino, but just how great?
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Apple still isn't budging on Apple Watch sales - it will not disclose the actual numbers of how many smartwatches it has sold since April and stuck to that line in its eagerly anticipated Q3 earnings call this week.

That doesn't mean Apple execs went quiet on the Apple Watch, in fact Tim Cook said it was off to "a great start" and had "exceeded internal expectations" in terms of sales. That doesn't sound like a flop. So was it one?

Read this: The best Apple Watch apps

We've had a few clues from the earnings call and elsewhere this week to suggest that the Apple Watch has had a solid, if not spectacular, start. Apple CFO Luca Maestri told The New York Times that the Apple Watch sold more units in its first nine weeks than the iPhone or iPad. That sounds good but to be fair neither were launched with the brand loyalty that exists in 2015 or the fanfare around the product with celebrities snapped using it and big name apps already lined up.

From controversial e-receipt data from the US only, the Apple Watch seemed to have a big first week in April then a drop off in May and June. As much as 90% down to 20,000 sales a day, in fact. But Tim Cook told shareholders that global sales (including in-store sales) were actually higher in June than April or May. So those graphs showing sales falling off a cliff could be inaccurate - possibly because the 2.3 million week one sales weren't quite as high.

One clue to the higher global Watch sales is that Apple has continued to expand the countries it is selling in, with three more countries due to be added by the end of July. One of which is China: Android Wear is effectively banned there and Cook pointed to 87% growth of iPhone sales in the country.

The next iPhone?

Apple Watch sales were never going to come close to the 47.5 million iPhones sold in the quarter (April, May, June) and Maestri would only say that Watch sales have offset the decrease in iPod sales. This is interesting because these two products are lumped together in the same category for units sold and revenue made alongside Apple TV, Beats and accessories. Cook asked investors not to try and guess Watch sales based on the overall 'other' category which made $2.6 billion for Apple, a $952 million increase over the previous quarter. But of course analysts have - most fresh estimates have put sales so far between 2.5 and 5.7 million units in total with an average of 4 million.

Let's say that is correct - that would put Apple Watch sales on a par with global Fitbit sales of 3.9 million for the quarter. That would make the Apple Watch the bestselling smartwatch by far as only Xiaomi (2.8 million) and Garmin (700,000) come close to these kind of sales with fitness trackers and running watches, according to IDC data.

And the middle or top estimates would put the Apple Watch on track to beat first year iPad sales of 14.8 million and first year iPhone sales. The iPhone was launched in 2007 but only reached 20 million units sold in 2008/2009.

Apple Watch IS smartwatches right now

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As we said above, sales of 4 million make the Apple Watch the bestselling smartwatch of 2015 by far with only Fitbit fitness trackers matching Watch sales. Now Strategy Analytics has come out with its own estimate and analysis that 4 million smartwatches sold means that the Apple Watch is now 75% of the smartwatch market in just three months.

For comparison, sales of Samsung smartwatches have dropped from 700,000 at the beginning of this year to 400,000 in Q2. Sales of all other smartwatches - that includes Motorola, LG, Asus, Sony, Pebble - amounted to just 900,000 devices to bring us a total of 5.3 million.

Great news for smartwatches in general, which were only selling 1 million the same time last year but bad news for Apple's competitors in this space. It gives Apple a 75.5% share of the market, almost identical to the 73.6% marketshare Samsung - somehow - enjoyed in Q2 of 2014.

Rajeev Nair, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, "Samsung is a long way behind Apple and it will need to launch multiple new smartwatch models and apps across dozens of countries if it wants to reduce Apple's global smartwatch leadership in the coming months."

So why can't Tim Cook just give us a number? Well, CFO Luca Maestri said on the earnings call that Apple doesn't want to help its rivals in any way by disclosing sales figures. Every wearable tech manufacturer in the world would want to know the exact sales - which countries are buying the Watch, which model they are choosing, which size and whether they are buying in-store or online.

The Apple Watch is far from perfect but with watchOS 2 bringing native apps, the launch of Apple Pay in the UK and more real world partnerships on the horizon, it is already the smartwatch to beat in 2015.

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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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