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Samsung’s Galaxy Gear didn’t “sell” 800,000 units, and it could be as big a flop as Microsoft Surface

AP/Gero Breloer
The bigger a company’s ambitions for a launch, the more painful the rebuke if a product doesn’t sell.
By Christopher Mims
South KoreaPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This morning tech pundits were caught flat-footed by a Reuters report in which Samsung claimed it had “sold” 800,000 of the widely-panned Galaxy Gear smartwatches. This figure seems too good to be true for a device that critics consistently derided as light on battery life, excessively complicated and “inconsistent and frustrating.”

And indeed, subsequent reporting by Korean publication Yonhap, confirmed by the Verge, clarifies that Samsung meant that it had shipped 800,000 Galaxy Gear smartwatches to retailers. It’s unclear how many have sold in the two months since the watch became available to consumers, and that could be a problem for Samsung on the scale of the Surface flop, which cost Microsoft $900 million.

Just because a company manufactures and ships (to retailers) a certain number of a device doesn’t mean they’re selling. And an earlier rumor published by BusinessKorea says that Samsung has actually sold only 50,000 Gear smartwatches. The difference between 800,000 and 50,000 is 750,000 smartwatches, and at $300 apiece they represent a potential $225 million in unsold goods.

If Samsung’s Gear is in fact a flop in sales to consumers, it would be a double blow to Samsung: first, the sting of a flop, and second, the wariness it could engender in retailers left with all that unsold inventory.

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