By Julia Love
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc <AAPL.O> will not release first-weekend sales of its new iPhone 7, the company said on Thursday, making it harder for analysts to get a read on the product's prospects amid questions over whether its popularity has peaked.
The company decided to stop the practice because the number of phones sold during the period has become more a reflection of Apple’s supply than demand, a company spokeswoman said, when asked whether Apple will be releasing the figure.
“As we have expanded our distribution through carriers and resellers to hundreds of thousands of locations around the world, we are now at a point where we know before taking the first customer pre-order that we will sell out of iPhone 7,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. “These initial sales will be governed by supply, not demand, and we have decided that it is no longer a representative metric for our investors and customers.”
The company reiterated its financial outlook for the quarter.
Apple launched the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus at a San Francisco event on Wednesday. The new phones feature improved cameras and eliminate the traditional headphone jack in favor of new technology. Preorders will begin on Friday, and Apple will start shipping the devices on Sept. 16.
The stakes for the iPhone 7 are high after sales of the gadget dropped during two straight quarters this year, the first declines in its history.
As they try to assess whether the iPhone has reached a plateau, investors will not be happy about losing a data point, said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners.
"Less data is never good, particularly given the question marks around this phone," he said.
Apple shares fell 2.4 percent to $105.71 in mid-day trading.
On Sept. 28, 2015, when Apple announced record first-weekend sales of its iPhone 6, its stock dropped 2 percent, reflecting Wall Street's worries about cooling demand.
The iPhone is Apple's lifeblood, accounting for more than half of the company's revenue. In the most recent quarter, Apple recorded $42.4 billion in total revenue with $24 billion coming from the iPhone.
Investors have grown accustomed to receiving early sales figures, and Apple's decision to hold back seems significant, said analyst John Jackson of IDC.
"It reinforces, I think, the thesis that this product is mature," he said.
Nevertheless, sales logged when the supply chain is ramping up only reveal so much about the gadget's ultimate trajectory, said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights Strategy.
"What's meaningful to me are the first month of sales with full supply," he said.
(Additional reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)