Apple Watch first-year sales projections proved outlandishly unrealistic

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Apple Watch Edition
The Apple Watch Edition wasn't exactly a big seller.
Photo: Apple

Unlike the way Apple used to brag about its record iPhone sales, the company never reveals how many units the Apple Watch sells.

According to a new report, there may be a good reason for this secrecy. In its first year, the device proved a big disappointment for Apple.

The Wall Street Journal story, which focuses on the departure of Apple design chief Jony Ive, includes an interesting tidbit. It says that, in year one, Apple sold around 10 million Apple Watches. That’s about on a par with the iPhone, which sold approximately that many in its first full year on sale.

The problem? Apple reportedly expected to sell 40 million Apple Watches — four times as many. The report calls out the pricey Apple Watch Edition as a massive flop. While Apple can’t possibly have expected that tons of people would buy $10,000-plus smartwatches, Cupertino apparently wound up with thousands of unsold units.

A turning point for Jony Ive?

The report makes it seem like the Apple Watch launch marked some kind of inflection point for Ive, whose departure from Apple became public knowledge last week. The direction of the project caused internal clashes, Ive one of the main drivers behind it.

Ive viewed Apple Watch as a fashion item, while others saw it as an iPhone accessory. This confused vision could have contributed to the disappointing first-year sales. It also could have been the point at which Ive decided to move away from Apple.

Apple Watch sales rise

Since then, the Apple Watch developed its own identity. The Apple Watch Edition is no more. And with it, Apple’s flirtations with being a fashion brand vanished as well.

The Apple Watch’s key selling point today is its focus on fitness and health. Apple still declines to break out numbers, but Apple Watch sales certainly have grown. The redesigned Apple Watch Series 4 in particular became a hit wearable.