iPad Air Flies on First Weekend: Analysts (Update 2)

Updated from 10:35 a.m. EST to include comments from AT&T on activations.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) may not announce how many people purchased the iPad Air this weekend, but looking at usage trends, it appears to be quite a lot.

Mobile app marketing company Fiksu has released data suggesting that early iPad Air adoption appears to be around five times greater than the previous version of the 9.7-inch iPad, which was released in October 2012. Fiksu is measuring the data by using its own apps on the devices, so obviously it should be taken with a grain of salt. Even so, it looks like the iPad Air, with its radically redesigned body, is off to a good start.

The research firm also noted that Apple's iOS 7 operating system appears to be ahead of previous OSes with regards to adoption. After 47 days of release, 71.7% of users are using iOS 7, compared to 63.9% for iOS 6, and 51.9% for iOS 5.

It's tough to tell how many iPad Airs were sold this weekend, though we can get some idea. Last year, Apple announced it sold over 3 million new iPad 4 and iPad Mini models. If usage is five times greater, assuming a 33% to 67% split of iPad 4 and iPad Mini models sold, that could mean Apple sold roughly 5 million iPad Air models this weekend.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White notes a good percentage of those sales are coming from older iPad users. "Our survey work of 106 buyers of the iPad Air in NYC indicates that 73% of respondents were upgrading from older iPad models, followed by 14% moving from non-iPad tablets, and 13% were first-time tablet buyers," White wrote in a research note. "The biggest shift to the iPad Air came from the iPad 2 (31% of respondents), followed by 18% from the iPad 3, and 16% from the original iPad." He rates Apple shares "buy" with a $777 price target.

It's unlikely that Apple will announce iPad Air sales for this weekend, most likely announcing iPad sales figured when the iPad Mini with Retina Display is launched, later this month.

Late in the day Monday, AT&T (T) announced that iPad activations were up 200% year-over-year in the three days that the new iPad Air was available. "iPad activations on AT&T increased more than 200% over the past three days compared to last year's launch weekend, driven by consumer excitement around the new iPad Air and the popularity of AT&T Mobile Share, which lets customers add an iPad to their existing data plan for just $10 a month," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility. "We also saw strong demand for AT&T Next, which offers customers an iPad for $0 down on the nation's fastest and most reliable 4G LTE network."

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