Sorry, Cynics: Apple Watch Might Be Company's Biggest Launch Ever

04/13/2015 12:46 pm ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015
PETER PARKS via Getty Images

People really, really want the Apple Watch.

Nearly 1 million U.S. consumers preordered the tech giant's first smartwatch when it went on sale last Friday. The estimate comes from Slice Intelligence, a firm that uses e-receipts to measure digital commerce. Apple's latest offering was preordered by 957,000 people, who spent an average of $503.83 on the device, putting the watch on track to be the company's biggest new product release ever.

When the original iPhone launched in 2007, it took 74 days to reach 1 million sales. In 2010, the original iPad took 28 days. (Both products were initially only made available in the United States, which is not the case with the Apple Watch.)

Neil Cybart, a finance expert who tracks Apple on the Above Avalon blog, minced no words about the significance of the watch's release.

"It's pretty clear that with the Apple Watch, Apple will have its largest product launch," Cybart said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

That said, while the demand for the device is clearly there, it's unclear whether Apple will actually be able to ship enough watches to outpace sales of the original iPad and iPhone. When Apple released numbers for those devices, it counted units that were shipped, not just reserved via preorder. Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores, warned that demand for the Apple Watch may outstrip supply, and customers who placed orders on Friday were already being informed that their orders may not ship until this summer -- months after the product's official April 24 release.

Cybart also noted the importance of global sales of the Apple Watch.

"The big thing here is the country rollout," he said, pointing out that the watch was available for preorder in eight countries beyond the United States. "It says a lot for how many units Apple can actually sell."

Apple announced in March that in addition to the U.S., the watch would be available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom. The ability to go global is huge for the company: When the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus went on sale last September, their global preorder numbers rocketed past 4 million in the first 24 hours.

Cybart said he expected that the overall weekend preorders for the Apple Watch could potentially reach 3 million units globally. While that would put it below the iPhone 6's first-day preorder numbers, he said it would make the Apple Watch the most successful "new product category" launch.

Of course, high sales aren't necessarily surprising. The Apple Watch connects directly to an iPhone, which enjoyed record sales last year. And Apple's reach across the globe is greater than it's ever been: The company signed a deal with a massive Chinese network just before the launch of the iPhone 6.

Critics have had a mixed response to the Apple Watch. Many call it unnecessary. But consumers, it seems, are ready to spend some cash on a little luxury.

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