Questions posed over Apple iPhone sales

The Tame Apple press has been running a story about how Cupertino is not doomed after selling nine million iPhones over the weekend.

Apple released the figures itself, and it was seized on as it suggested the company was returning to the glory days of record growth.

Nine million phones on an opening weekend was a record for a company that needs a few. Last year only five million phones were sold on the opening weekend.

Apple might have been hoping that people did not look too hard at the figures. Sadly, the numbers were so high that some analysts and the less incredulous press started to look a little closer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the biggest factor was the decision to run a launch in China on the same weekend. Last time the Chinese launch happened on a different day and netted about two million extra sales.

This time the Apple sales count also included sales to other retailers in its channel. So the nine million units figures include unsold iPhone 5C still sitting on the shelves of non-Apple retailers, analysts said.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said that if adjusting for the 5C, the weekend was not as good as Apple wants you to think it was.

He thinks that there are three million to four million iPhone 5C models gathering dust on retailers’ shelves and that the number of both handsets in the hands of consumers was 5.5 million. Factor in whatever Apple managed to flog in China and the sales figures are not as great as they seem and might even be less than last year.

Forbes also points out that Apple was actually selling two phones in different markets. One simply does not compare sales numbers from the release of two models to the release of only one model last time, especially when one of the current models is priced at half of the price of the previous model.

All up, there is nothing you can actually tell from Apple’s figures other than the fact it needed to beat them up a lot. After the initial hype, which saw Apple’s share price go up a bit, it fell again to pre-launch norms.

There is also no real indication of the long-term success of either phone. The first weekend sales are usually to hardcore Apple fans who upgrade whenever something new comes out.