Samsung says Galaxy Gear smartwatch sales hit 800k. What’s a “sale”?

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, the smartwatch that garnered relatively poor reviews and reported high return rates, has topped 800,000 sales according to the company. Reuters reported the figure on Tuesday morning, just two months after the device launched. Yet Business Korea says industry sources tell it only 50,000 Galaxy Gear devices have been sold. What’s the deal?

Similar to most other mobile device makers, Samsung is likely reporting the number of Galaxy Gear units shipped to retailers; i.e.; devices to be sold. These wouldn’t be actual sales to end customers. Unless Samsung has hooks into every retail partners point-of-sale and inventory systems, it’s simply not possible to know the exact number of actual sales for its smartwatch. This is, therefore, pretty standard industry practice.

But I think Samsung’s commentary is a little disingenuous. The Reuters article ends with this statement from Samsung: “It’s the most sold wearable watch available in the market place…” I guess it all means what you define as “sold.”

I’m a bit leery of the entire situation based on my own hands-on with the Galaxy Gear — it still feels like a bit of work-in-progress to me, even though it recently got a nice software upgrade. Couple that with reviews that were mostly negative — I haven’t seen one that says “Go buy this!” — a higher than the category average $300 price tag and being limited to working with just a few select Samsung device for now. I just don’t see the 800,000 sales figure being representative of reality.

In Samsung’s defense, there have been some phone and watch bundles through retailers. If you purchase a Galaxy Note 3 smartphone through some retailers, you can get a free Galaxy Gear. But again, that’s not really a “sale.” The transaction likely puts a little revenue in Samsung’s pocket because the retailer bought the watch in the first place at a discount. It’s not a vote of confidence from the consumer that the Galaxy Gear is a hit though. And ultimately, that’s what’s going to be the deciding factor in if we call the Galaxy Gear the best smartwatch in the market: More consumers with a Galaxy Gear on their wrist. And I haven’t seen one yet.