Is the Apple Watch a bust? Depends who you ask

Apple Watch sales started with a bang but are in a freefall, according to sales data compiled by a market researcher. Not everyone agrees with the data, however.

Data released this week by Slice Intelligence shows Apple Watch sales in the U.S. dropping off to a trickle. For example, on the first day of sales on April 10, Slice showed projected sales of about 1.3 million watches, according to data supplied to by Slice.  However, by the first week of July, sales, on some days, had fallen to below 5,000 units. Slice’s research is based on electronic receipts sent to millions of email addresses after purchase of the watch.

Slice immediately saw push back on Apple blogs and Twitter.

Apple enthusiast site Apple Insider published a long rebuttal claiming the data was “questionable,” and Apple, on the contrary, has launched the most successful smartwatch to date. Arguing that Apple Watch sales haven’t collapsed, the editorial claims that Slice’s data “is not a measure of supply reaching demand, but rather of an initial demand peak that supplies have only recently grown to meet.”

Slice says some of the push back was an overreaction to the slant of the initial report on the data at MarketWatch.

“It seemed…[they] were reacting to [the] interpretation of the data [by MarketWatch], versus the data itself,” a Slice spokesperson wrote to in an email. Slice added that the more strident push back seemed “prosecutorial.”

Of Slice’s 2.5 million panelists – people who have agreed to participate in the research – 21,000 bought an Apple Watch.

“That's a very robust sample,” the spokesperson wrote. “What we see is that demand dropped dramatically after the first day - indicating there was pent-up demand for the watch by apple enthusiasts who bought them the instant they became available. Since then, they haven't been as highly sought.”

A report by Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty released on June 24 said that “Watch interest in the week of launch was about half that for the first iPhone, but the Watch has seen a much smaller deceleration since the initial spike…[and the] Watch has seen more supply constraints due to some component issues and we believe likely conservative demand forecasts by Apple.”

The root cause of the squabbles about sales data is Apple itself. The company is stoking speculation because it isn’t providing any sales updates for the Watch, which it typically does for a successful product launch like the iPad or iPhone.

Last year, Apple said that it would not be publishing unit sales of the Watch in its quarterly earnings reports.

Plenty of financial analysts are chiming in in an attempt to fill that vacuum. Sales estimates for the Watch range from 3 million to 5.7 million in Apple’s third quarter, which ended June 27.

If anything is certain at this point, it’s that the jury is still out on the success of Apple’s first watch. It’s only been three months since the Watch launched. And since it’s a brand new product line, many customers are undoubtedly still on the sideline.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.