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See Why Nobody Has Any Idea If the Apple Watch Will Win

2 minute read

Apple’s special event on Monday revealed a bunch of new details about the Apple Watch. But there’s one thing that we won’t know anytime soon: How successful will it be?

Unlike sales of the iPhone 6, Apple Watch sales (starting Apr. 24) are hard to forecast for two main reasons: the device is the first of its kind for Apple, and the smartwatch market itself is still developing. Just take a look at the latest estimates for Apple Watch sales in 2015, care of Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt: Very smart people are guessing Apple will sell anywhere from 8 million units all the way to 41 million, with an average of 22.6 million.

Consider the last time Apple entered a totally new product category: that was back in Apr. 3, 2010, when the first iPad hit the market. At that time, the closest relatives of the highly-anticipated iPad (named one of TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2010) were really only distant cousins, like Microsoft’s ill-received slate-style Tablet PC. As a result, it was basically impossible to forecast iPad sales without understanding how the new device would actually fit into consumers’ lives—the central question surrounding the Apple Watch.

With tablets, users have wound up keeping their iPads and other devices far longer than their smartphones — and later, users started buying big-screen smartphones instead of iPads. These trends seem like no-brainers today, but they weren’t so obvious without data to work from. So how far off were early iPad sales predictions? Months before the iPad’s April 2010 release, Elmer-DeWitt surveyed analysts about their estimates for iPad sales in 2010 and 2011.

It turns out their pre-release estimates were way off from Apple’s actual sales:

Of course, analysts’ estimates improved after the iPad posted massive sales in its first quarter (Q3 2010) on the market. When Elmer-DeWitt polled analysts again for their estimates of the iPad’s Q4 2010 sales, their estimates were way closer to Apple’s actual sales:

So what does this means for the Apple Watch? As many people have said before, the Apple Watch’s success is anyone’s guess at this point. But if Apple Watch estimates play out like those of the iPad, then our current guesses might just be totally wrong.

11 Amazing Features of the Apple Watch

File picture shows an Apple Watch during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino
The Apple Watch is the company's' first entirely new product category since the original iPad. It's a huge gamble for Apple and a test of the still-nascent wearable market.Stephen Lam—Reuters/Corbis
Apple Unveils iPhone 6
The Watch is the most customizable and varied product Apple has likely ever launched. It'll come in three editions made of different metals and be available with multiple snap-in wrist bands. Prices start at $349.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple Unveils iPhone 6
The Watch has a touch interface that can sense the difference between a light touch and hard press. But it also has a "digital crown" that allows users to quickly scroll through lists without obscuring the screen.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook wears the Apple Watch and shows the iPhone 6 Plus during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino
The Watch must be paired with an iPhone for many of its functions. The device piggybacks on the phone's data and GPS connections to pipe in directions or incoming voice calls and text messages, for instance.Stephen Lam—Reuters
New Apple Watch is pictured during an Apple event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino
The Watch, like Apple's other iDevices, will have various independent apps. Examples include a Tesla app that shows the status of your electric car when it's charging and a Starwood app that lets the Watch act as your room key.Stephen Lam—Reuters
An Apple Watch is shown during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino
Apple's fitness app, one of the device's main selling points, tracks runs, walks and bike rides.Stephen Lam—Reuters
Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino
The Watch also can track your heart rate (while resting, while active) throughout the day thanks to these light sensors on the back.Koichi Mitsui—AFLO/Corbis
Apple Unveils iPhone 6
It also has Apple Pay, the company's digital payments platform. Swipe the Watch in front of a compatible kiosk and it will make an automatic online payment.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple Unveils iPhone 6
CEO Tim Cook has said the Watch will last about a day before it needs to be recharged. So far, battery life has been the biggest downside of most wearables. The Watch recharges through the magnetic system shown here.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple Unveils iPhone 6
The Watch will come with many customizable bands that slip on and click in place at the top and bottom of the device's body.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple introduces Apple Watch
It also comes in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, to fit on different size wrists.Monica Davey—EPA
Apple Watch is shown on screen during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertin
Higher-end models of the watch could cost several thousands of dollars.Stephen Lam—Reuters
Apple Unveils New iPad Models
Apple is significantly expanding it's product reach.Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
Apple Inc. Reveals Bigger-Screen iPhones Alongside Wearables
And there's one more thing...David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images
Tim Cook
It tells the time.Marcio Jose Sanchez—AP


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