Apple today said that iPhone sales, bolstered by the new 6S and 6S Plus models, are "on pace" to break last year's record of 10 million between pre-sales opening and the close of the first weekend of retail.
But the company's claim and the calendar hinted that pre-sales of the revamped smartphones were down from last year's debuts.
"Customer response to iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus has been extremely positive and preorders this weekend were very strong around the world," an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. "We are on pace to beat last year's 10 million unit first-weekend record when the new iPhones go on sale September 25."
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus went on sale Saturday just after midnight PT, with the usual online store problems reported by some. Those who used the mobile app generally found it easier to grab a new smartphone.
As of noon Monday PT, Apple's U.S. e-store showed only two tints available -- Silver and Space Gray -- for the 6S or 6S Plus, while the other color choices, including the new Rose Gold, were absent.
According to the iPhone 6S Pre-Order Tracker, which scrapes Apple's online outlet to determine which models, storage configurations and carrier options are backordered, the 5.5-in. iPhone 6S Plus currently has a three-to-four-week delay between ordering and shipping in the U.S., Australia, China, Japan and the U.K.
"The online demand for iPhone 6S Plus has been exceptionally strong and exceeded our own forecasts for the preorder period," Apple's spokeswoman said.
The smaller 4.7-in. iPhone 6S wasn't in the same boat: Except for China and Japan, the handset was still available today for delivery on retail's opening day, Sept. 25, in most colors and configurations.
The situation was reminiscent of 2014, when the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple's inaugural large-screen phone, sold out and went to delayed shipping almost as soon as pre-orders opened at midnight on Sept. 12.
However, Apple's statement did not repeat last year's claim of four million iPhones sold over the three-day weekend of pre-orders, hinting that early sales were lower this time. Also notable was the tentative assertion that sales were on pace -- a way to leave some wiggle room -- to best 2014's 10 million record.
That pace, of course, could dramatically decelerate and Apple would still be in the clear.
More importantly, this year's stretch between the beginning of pre-orders and the end of the first weekend of retail availability will be 16 days, six days longer than 2014's span. If Apple needs the additional time to reach the 10-million mark, sales will have been slower this year compared to last.
The one constant between 2014 and 2015 has been the popularity of the plus-sized iPhone and the resulting inventory shortage. Twelve months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the same about that year's new iPhones: "Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend," he noted in a statement at the time.
For the original iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple wasn't able to match supply with demand until January 2015, approximately four months after launch. Although early indications are that the Cupertino, Calif. will reach a balance faster this year, the fact that Apple has again underestimated demand for the larger model, or been unable to produce enough to eliminate long wait times, was both troubling and par for the course for the firm.
Apple is to start selling the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus at retail early Friday, Sept. 25. The longer lag between pre-order and retail availability may be Apple's tactic to accumulate enough inventory, especially of the iPhone 6S Plus, to sufficiently stock its own stores.