iPhone fan mania could result in another record weekend for opening sales of Apple’s new flagships the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. We just don’t know yet.
The bigger question is: What will the numbers mean?
In what has become a pop culture rite, Apple fans worldwide stood in line for hours, and days, to be among the first to snag the new phones Friday.
“I can’t resist it,” said David Hearne, 27, of Seaford, Del. “It’s amazing. It’s gonna be sexy.” He showed up at 11 p.m. Thursday with a blanket and cot to be first in line at a Verizon Wireless store in Salisbury, Md.
On Sunday, an Apple store at Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall had a line 300 deep, with dwindling supplies at the store. A spot check of Apple’s website showed limited availability for in-store pickup at many U.S. Apple stores. The company won’t release opening weekend sales figures until Monday at the earliest, and estimates vary.
A big part of the appeal is that Apple finally up-sized the iPhone. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch touchscreen; the iPhone 6 Plus a 5.5-inch screen — both much larger than the 4-inch display on the predecessor iPhone 5s. Consumers have flocked to larger-screen phones based on Google’s market-leading Android operating system from Samsung, LG and Motorola.
Overall, the Android operating system dominates in market share. But in the U.S., the iPhone is the No. 1 device, with 41.9% market share, compared to 27.8% for runner-up Samsung and its Galaxy line, comScore data show.
Last year, Apple sold more than 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c devices in multiple countries, including China, on opening weekend. There’s no release date set yet for the new iPhones in China, a huge market.
Analyst Tim Bajarin at Creative Strategies is projecting opening weekend sales of 6.7 million. He said the tally would have been even higher had the new iPhones launched in China this week as well.
Apple opened pre-orders for the phones Sept. 12, notching a record 4 million in the first 24 hours. With some pre-orders requiring a wait as long as November for delivery, droves turned out over the weekend to try to snag a new phone sooner.
The upshot: This should be Apple’s biggest opening weekend ever, assuming it was able to keep up with stock, says Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
“Consumers are clearly responding to pent-up demand for a bigger screen,” he said. “Despite Samsung’s insistence that the next big thing was already here in its Galaxy Note, many iPhone users would rather wait than switch.”
In a note Friday, Barclay cautioned that first weekend sales ” is a meaningless figure” since it only represents Apple’s supply. Anything above 10 million units sold would be a “positive surprise,” given limited supplies, the investment house said.
Apple has a lot riding on the roll-out. At a splashy event earlier this month, the company unveiled the new phones along with the hotly anticipated Apple Watch (launching early next year) and Apple Pay, a mobile payment system.
“This is a very key day for Apple,” CEO Tim Cook said then.
Apple stock closed Friday at $100.96, down 83 cents.