The Apple Watch did not garner much interest at its introduction late last year or even when it was launched a couple of months ago, and it doesn’t seem like this is changing. Of course that depends entirely on which set of analysis or data you are looking at.
Some analysts have claimed that interest in the Apple Watch is climbing, but Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, Jr. says it doesn’t look like it’s improving. In coming up with this conclusion, he used data from Google Trends.
Internet buzz offers good indicators for Apple’s performance
Sacconaghi’s latest study is very similar to another study on the Apple Watch that was conducted earlier this year and had similar findings. The analyst reports that internet buzz has “been a highly correlated (leading) indicator of product success” and “an effective tool in determining when product growth slows or competitive offerings hit negative inflection points.”
When looking at internet buzz relating to Apple products, he found a close track with the company’s overall revenue and the performance of those products. Further, he said that historically, internet buzz has been “directionally predictive” of sales performance of both the iPhone and Apple overall on a quarter over quarter basis.
Apple Watch fails to generate as much buzz as past products
In his report dated June 23, Sacconaghi reported that internet buzz data indicates that the Apple Watch could generate only about a third the buzz of the iPhone and a fourth that of the iPad. The analyst also said that after the launch quarter, the buzz for other Apple products tends to increase.
Assuming the pattern repeats itself with the Apple Watch, he said buzz for the smartwatch could stay at less than half that of the iPad and iPhone over the next several quarters. He defines “a unit of buzz” as being “1% of the maximum weekly buzz ever for iPhone,” which he said happened in the second week of September 2012. That’s when Apple first bumped up the size of the iPhone when it launched the iPhone 5.
How many watches will Apple sell?
The analyst said the internet buzz data suggests that Apple will sell only about 750,000 watches during its June quarter and about 1.3 million in its September quarter. He notes that these estimates rely on “simplifying assumptions” and that they are not his actual estimates. On the other hand though, he also pointed out that the data suggests downside in Apple Watch sales compared to consensus estimates.
Sacconaghi estimates that Apple sold approximately 250,000 iPads “per unit of buzz” during the product’s launch period and about 150,000 iPhone unit “per unit of buzz” during that product’s launch period. The analyst thinks the sales numbers per buzz will be more similar to those of the iPad rather than the iPhone because like the iPad, the Apple Watch isn’t tied to a mobile data contract.
Apple Watch unit sales could come up short of expectations
By assuming about 250,000 Apple Watches per buzz unit, he gets about 750,000 smartwatches in the current quarter and 1.3 million units in the September quarter. Those numbers are much lower than his estimates of 3 million units in the current quarter, 4.5 million units in the next quarter, and the consensus estimates of 4 million and 5 million units respectively.
In spite of concerns about unit numbers in the near term, the Bernstein analyst thinks the Apple Watch could gradually become accretive to the company’s gross margins. In the long term, he expects “significant volume,” especially as people buy it for its health monitoring capabilities.
Sacconaghi has an Outperform rating and $142 per share price target on Apple. Shares of Apple closed down 0.41% at $127.09 per share today.