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Apple sold 5 million phones over the weekend, which might sound like a pretty indisputable record-breaking number, but it's not. Turns out that figure can mean a lot of things. Sure, we know the facts: Apple sold 5 million phones in three days and that is more than the 4 million sold during last year's iPhone 4S debut. But dig a little into the statistic and things quickly get murky. Is selling 5 million phones a success? No. Then, was this phone was a failure? The answer is also no. Let us count all the ways people are spinning those iPhone 5 sales numbers. 

  • It missed analysts estimates.
  • Thus: Apple "magic" is gone. 
  • Did Apple really sell 5 million phones, anyway? That number could be too low.
  • No matter, this 3 day metric isn't meaningful—it's the 3 month mark that matters. 
  • Actually, sales figures mean nothing at all.

Maybe we can just all agree that corporations are complex and thus cannot be explained by one simple number. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.