When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced that it had sold 9 million iPhones during launch weekend last year, there was an important caveat. Last year was the first time that the company had introduced two new models instead of one. That made the figures less comparable, since the 5 million units sold during the 2012 launch only included one model.
This year, the challenge with comparing the 10 million unit launch weekend was that China was notably absent from the list of launch countries, which is one reason why the figure was particularly impressive. Apple has announced that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will launch in China later this month on Oct. 17, and it's already sold 1 million more.
1 million in six hours ain't bad
That's according to a new report from WantChinaTimes, which says China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile have now accumulated over 1 million preorders for the new models. That was just six hours after the three carriers began accepting preorders. Furthermore, preorders could potentially top 2 million if you include units sold through distributors.
In an effort to better compare this year's launch figures to last year, there are several factors to consider. Last month, Apple said it scored 4 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus preorders within the first 24 hours, and then proceeded to sell the aforementioned 10 million units during launch weekend. If we add in the reported preorders from China, we're talking about 5 million preordered units. If the launch-sales-to-preorders ratio is even remotely close, Apple could sell anywhere from 2.5 million to 5 million units during the China launch.
If we add that potential sum to the reported 10 million, then that would be 12.5 million to 15 million units sold during launch weekends when normalizing launch countries, even if the China launch is a month late. That would be quite a gain over last year's 9 million.
There's more where that came from
It gets better. The reported China preorders only include orders accepted by the three major carriers. Apple's own official preorder window starts on Oct. 10, with the company accepting in-store reservations on Oct. 14. Who knows how many preorders Apple will rack up directly?
Historically, only 20% of iPhones are sold directly through Apple, which the bulk of sales being conducting through other distribution channels like carrier retail stores. The company has been working to increase that figure, as customers can be upsold to other products if they buy iPhones from Apple Stores, but it's unclear if the company has made any progress on this front.
Including retail operations, the Greater China segment now comprises 18% of revenue, making it one of Apple's most important markets. Apple is in for a fourth quarter that will easily set fresh records. What was Tim Cook saying about a "very busy fall"?
Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and China Mobile. 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.