Apple says it sold 9 million new iPhones in first weekend

SAN FRANCISCO — Has Apple Inc. regained its cool factor?

The company announced in a news release Monday that it sold 9 million new iPhones over the weekend. That number blew past its previous records, trounced nearly all expectations on Wall Street and sent its stock soaring.

Apple also confirmed that users were downloading iOS 7, the newer version of its mobile operating system released last week, at a record clip.

For legions of Apple loyalists, the extraordinary results provided more evidence that the Cupertino, Calif., company’s grip on consumers’ imaginations and wallets remained as firm as ever.


“This is our best iPhone launch yet — more than 9 million new iPhones sold — a new record for first weekend sales,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a statement. “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.”

Not everyone was convinced that sales were so spectacular.

Gene Munster, an Apple analyst for Piper Jaffray, estimated that the number of phones bought by consumers was far lower, about 5.5 million units of the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c that went on sale Friday. Munster says Apple is counting an additional 3.5 million units of the iPhone 5c that were bought by carriers but sitting unsold in stores.

Munster said he confirmed his calculations with the company.


“It’s still impressive,” Munster said. “It’s not as staggering as it originally sounded. But it’s still better than many expected.”

Asked about Munster’s calculations, an Apple spokesman said the company will not provide any more details other than what was announced in the news release.

Still, other analysts were far more bullish and pointed to the sales numbers as proof positive that demand for Apple products remained as strong as ever.

Brian White, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, said the 9 million number shows that Apple “defies the skeptics.”


“We called this an iPhone launch unlike any other and today’s [numbers] provides yet another example with a stronger than expected performance,” White wrote in a memo to investors. “We believe Apple’s stock will react very positively to this announcement, and this highlights the strong demand around the new iPhone 5c that, in our opinion, undeservedly received unfair criticism at launch.”

Last year, Apple released only one new phone, the iPhone 5, and it sold 5 million units the first weekend the phone was available in September 2012. In addition, the company sold 2 million units the first weekend the iPhone 5 went on sale in China in December 2012.

This year, the new iPhones were available for the first time in China at the same time they went on sale everywhere else. But despite their launch in more and bigger markets, analysts had modest expectations for the new iPhones, ranging from 4 million to 7 million units.

In part, that was because the two new phones contain new features that are considered evolutionary, not revolutionary. The higher-end iPhone 5s includes a fingerprint scanner, better camera and faster processor. The less expensive iPhone 5c features a plastic case and five possible colors.


On Friday, it quickly became clear that consumers were far more interested in the iPhone 5s.

Many stores seemed to have only one or two units of the gold iPhone 5s on Friday. And as soon as the iPhone 5s went for sale online, Apple’s website reported that it was out of stock and orders would not be shipped until October.

Apple did not provide a breakdown between sales of the two new models. According to one report, however, the iPhone 5s was more than three times as popular as the iPhone 5c.

Localytics, an analytics and marketing platform for app developers, says the iPhone 5s was far and away the clear choice among Apple fans over the weekend.


“This makes sense since those who feel the need to buy a new device the very weekend it launches are most likely the power users who want the highest-end phone experience,” the firm said.

Most stores were reporting ample supplies of the iPhone 5c on Monday.

The announcement of the iPhone sales number sent Apple’s stock soaring Monday. Shares rose $23.23, or nearly 5%, to $490.64.

In addition to the robust iPhone sales, the company said 200 million of its iOS users had upgraded to the new operating system.


According to statistics from Fiksu, a mobile analysts firm, more than 50% of all iOS devices have upgraded to iOS 7. The rush to upgrade last Wednesday led to long waits and error messages for many users, who apparently overwhelmed Apple’s servers.

The Fiksu report says less than 40% of users had upgraded to iOS 6, and less than 30% had upgraded to iOS 5 during the same time period after their release.

For many fans, Apple’s numbers provided a welcome “I told you so” moment after weeks of insisting that the pundits and naysayers were underestimating the strength of Apple’s business and products.

“Thanks to all our amazing customers for the fantastic weekend,” Apple CEO Cook wrote Monday in his second tweet on Twitter.


Twitter: @obrien