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9 Million Isn't the Impressive Apple Number

By Rick Munarriz - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:00PM

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It's all about the updates.

The market cheered Apple's (AAPL -0.14%) big news this morning, after the company announced sales of 9 million iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c devices this past weekend. However, there's a more impressive metric that the consumer tech giant published this morning.

First, let's tackle the 9 million devices.

That's great, of course. Apple likely silenced the skeptics. I know that I'm not the only one having a crow omelette for breakfast this morning. 

However, let's put that 9 million figure into its proper perspective. Apple sold more than 5 million iPhone 5 handsets in last year's debut weekend, and yet:

  • The market was unhappy with last year's number, sending the stock 1.3% lower on the day the news came out.
  • We naturally don't know how quickly the smartphone market is growing this quarter, but industry tracker IDC had the global smartphone market growing by 52.3% during the second quarter. Apple would need to have sold 7.6 million devices this time around to keep market share at that pace.
  • Last year's iPhone 5 was launched in just nine countries. Anyone living outside of the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K. would have to wait a few weeks later to order. This year the iPhone was released in all of those markets, as well as China. Availability in the world's most populous nation will naturally juice the numbers.

This doesn't mean that 9 million is not impressive. BlackBerry told investors on Friday that a mere 5.9 million BlackBerry smartphones were sold to end customers this past quarter. Apple sold at least 50% more smartphones in a weekend than BlackBerry pushed through in an entire quarter. 

However, the real number that's impressive here is that Apple has seen 200 million iOS devices upgrade to iOS 7 since Wednesday's debut. It was just 100 million iOS devices updating to iOS 6 at this point a year ago. 

This is the real head-turning metric that many will merely ignore. There was never any doubt that iOS devices were being widely used. App developers know that iOS owners are more active than their Android counterparts, even if Android continues to account for the vast majority of mobile gadgetry sold and consumed on the market.

It's still great to see twice as many people bother to update iOS last week than they did a year earlier, and this bodes well for Apple's loyalty that has come under fire as Android gains share.

This all adds up to a great weekend for Apple, and I didn't even touch on the scarcity factor this time around that may potentially make that 9 million figure even more impressive, but I held back only because there were iPhone 5 constraints last year, too.

Just compare CEO Tim Cook's similar quotes from the press releases these past two launch weekends. 

"The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and while we've sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly," he said this time around. "We appreciate everyone's patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone."

Last year? 

"Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible," he said at the time. "While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone's patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone."

That 9 million figure is still nothing to sneeze at, but the real prize in this morning's press release has to be the 200 million iOS 7 updates.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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