“In the smartphone market, wireless carriers are easily the most important distribution channel for smartphone OEMs,” Evan Niu reports for The Motley Fool. “That even applies to Apple, despite the fact that it has a huge network of retail stores where consumers can go buy an iPhone directly from the company. Most smartphone buyers still prefer to walk into their carrier’s retail stores when it’s time to upgrade, as the majority of smartphone OEMs don’t have direct distribution.”

“With Apple Watch getting cellular connectivity in the Series 3 models, it looks like carriers are going to play an increasingly important role in smartwatch distribution,” Niu reports. “Apple sold an estimated 2.9 million Apple Watches in the U.S. during the fourth quarter, according to Counterpoint Research.”

“Of those, a whopping 975,000 units — over a third — were sold through the four major wireless carriers, with Verizon leading the way. Big Red noted on its last conference call that it activated 550,000 other connected devices that primarily consisted of wearables,” Niu reports. “Analyst Jeff Fieldhack believes that about half of Apple Watch’s U.S. unit volumes were sold directly through Apple Stores. Within carrier smartwatch sales, Apple accounts for approximately 90% of all sales, Fieldhack estimates, underscoring how strong Apple’s grip is on the growing smartwatch market.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, the addition of cellular to Apple Watch was and is a meaningful driver of sales and carrier stores are therefore an important distribution point.

Apple Watch sets new all-time record for wearables shipments; ‘Apple has won the wearables game’ – analyst – February 7, 2018
Apple Watch sales momentum is growing; unit sales now rival those of Macintosh – January 23, 2018
Apple Watch Series 3 shipments predicted to rise to 23-25 million in 2018 – December 14, 2017
Apple Watch: The war for wearables is over, and Apple won – December 12, 2017
Canalys estimates Apple shipped 3.9 million Apple Watch units in Q317, despite strong demand outstripping supply – November 14, 2017
Two weeks with Apple Watch, leaving iPhone at home – November 10, 2017
When Apple Watch surpassed iPod – November 8, 2017
Ten days in with Apple Watch Series 3: I’m amazed by how quickly it integrated into daily life – October 19, 2017
Why Apple Watch Series 3 is a game changer – October 19, 2017
First week with Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular): Connectivity makes for a truly smart watch – October 9, 2017
Macworld reviews Apple Watch Series 3: The wearable leader runs out to an insurmountable lead – October 6, 2017
Jim Dalrymple reviews Apple Watch Series 3: ‘Do yourself a favor and get one’ – September 20, 2017
Wired reviews Apple Watch Series 3: ‘For the first time ever, I love the Apple Watch’ – September 20, 2017
9to5Mac reviews Apple Watch Series 3: Unlocks new potential with LTE, dramatically improved Siri – September 20, 2017
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple Watch Series 3 LTE models selling much faster than expected – September 18, 2017
Why the carriers must drop the Apple Watch LTE connectivity tax – September 15, 2017
How much Apple Watch Series 3 data plans will cost on Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint – September 14, 2017
Apple Watch, the world’s best-selling watch, can now work without an iPhone – September 12, 2017
New Apple Watch Series 3 delivers built-in cellular with powerful new health and fitness enhancements – September 12, 2017

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]