Microsoft Surface RT plagued by "very high" return rates

Microsoft Surface RT plagued by
There has been a pretty wide range of sales estimates when it comes to the Microsoft Surface RT tablet. Some estimates put the numbers as high as 1 million sold, some merely say 900,000 shipped, and some say that it could be as bad as 230,000 units sold. Whatever the actual number, it seems that one major factor in determining the final tally is that the Surface RT has been plagued by "very high" return rates. Back in October, the day after the tablet was first released, Microsoft was forced to change its return policy to allow customers to return Surface tablets in opened packaging. 

According to IHS iSuppli, Microsoft shipped around 1.25 million Surface RT tablets in Q4, but only about 55-60% of those units were actually sold. This would mean sales around 680,000 to 750,000, but in addition to those low sell-through rates for the tablet, iSuppli says that the tablet also saw "very high" return rates. The low sell-through rate isn't necessarily uncommon, as iSuppli says similar rates can be seen in various new Android tablets, but the combination of low sell-through and high returns is a big red flag. 

According to iSuppli, the current gold standard for sell-through rate is the Apple iPad, which is typically in the "mid to high 90 percent range or even 100 percent". This could be attributed not only to the popularity of the iPad, but also to Tim Cook's expertise in supply chain, and the fact that Apple keeps such a small amount of stock on hand at any given time, maximizing sell-through rates. 

IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander said that the reason for the high return rate was "linked in a lot of cases to a steep learning curve of the [Windows 8] OS -- which is not necessarily intuitive." This is a common complaint with Windows 8/RT, but also something of a lazy excuse. There may be a couple things that are a bit unintuitive with the OS, but they tend to be issues that are more commonly experienced on a non-touchscreen device. On a touchscreen device, Windows 8/RT is definitely intuitive, and easy to learn. We would have been convinced more if the reasoning had been due to the limitations of RT compared to Windows 8.

source: Venture Beat via CNET

Related phones

Surface RT
  • Display 10.6" 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Camera 1 megapixel
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30, Quad-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB



1. Ninetysix

Posts: 2966; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

iPad killer this is not.

2. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

RT sucks, the only good windows 8 tablets are the expensive ones like the razer edge.

14. SkOne

Posts: 105; Member since: May 02, 2012

forgot the Ativ Pro

17. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I don't think he was trying for a comprehensive list...

22. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

Ativ Pro is nice, i'm going to wait for haswell and see if we can get some quad core i7s with gt3 in tablets before I buy one.

15. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

I don't think the Surface RT is even an Android tablet killer, for that matter. Nice MS is all mum about RT sales, I tend to think the 230,000 number is closer to reality.

39. RaKithAPeiRiZ

Posts: 1488; Member since: Dec 29, 2011

problem is the amount of storage the OS uses up ,and people are better off with a trustable iOs tablet or a affordable Android tablet

42. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

Theres no excuse for the low storage, they are using solid states not phone flash memory they should go up to atleast 256gb.

49. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

SSD's are still expensive considering they are little more than densely pack flash memory chips in a 2.5" form factor. Chips are always expensive, won't change any time soon. MS enjoys a high amount of money on each Surface sale, even higher than Apple. So why would they want to cut into those profits? MS problems is Windows is too damn bloated for it's own good, 20GB of OS....for what? Just because HDD are getting larger, doesn't mean we need an OS that just eats up space for the hell of it, you swear it was filled with 7.1 channel True HD audio and 1080p video with commentary for each application.

51. OHaZZaR

Posts: 131; Member since: Aug 19, 2011

I'm actually glad it's not selling. Now Microsoft is going to try really hard to impress us with their next iteration of the surface. Instead of making "The clicking sound" the most exciting feature.

3. tward291

Posts: 559; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

What a bs story leave it to phone arena to post it. What evidence do they have of this. Of course the tablet sold low, but reliability people. I got some info phone arena that I will give you

10. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

IHS iSuppli is a reputable company that does a lot of research in supply chain. But, if you have info, we'd love to see it. Just send it to:

29. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Why almost never mentions - thanks for users who provides tips? :)

30. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

We do when tips are provided with a name, but the vast majority of tips either don't have a name, or come in after we've already posted the story.

31. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

What if I'm providing news with name "PhoneArenaUser", it doesn't count?

36. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Using your real name, even if it's just a first name, will always help. A screen name is too similar to being anonymous.

41. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I understand. :)

16. JesterB

Posts: 17; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

I don't know why you would think this story is BS. 4 of my friends picked up windows phones and they were all returned. I returned my Surface tablet for may reasons.... mostly because it just didnt work well. The apps are NOT there no matter what people tell you. A perfect example is Instagram... Windows users are screaming for it and they will never get it... on the other hand RIMM's phones have not even hit the market yet and Instagram is talking to them to bring the App to Rimm. Windows is dead my friends and I am just as frustrated as you.

40. Whodaboss

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

Yes. And 5 of my friends an family members who pickup Windows Phones and loves it! And none of them use, care, or gives two cents about Instagram. And as a Windows user I am not screaming for Instagram. Please do not lump me or "every" WP user in your statements. As a Windows user I realize everyone has their preferences. You have yours and I have mine. And I plan on picking up a Surface this upcoming month.

43. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

Makes sense, don't buy a device just because theres no instagram...

19. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

All I will say is this: When that same source is went to for other stories...and no one really has a problem with it really bs? Or is it more of you are a fan of the product and just dont wanna believe it?

4. idroidequis

Posts: 103; Member since: Jan 23, 2013

Im sure the storage issues are one of the main point. Now a days when you can get a ultrabook for 700$ they need to price the surface better. Im sufe itll sell better then.

12. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

I'm suprised the companys like Asus and Lenovo haven't been pushing out affordable windows 8 rt tablets. Maybe at MWC we will get some more choices.

7. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

Do not want!

8. papss unregistered

Yikes... That is terrible. Maybe I'll be able to get one on the cheap. One tablet from each would be awesome

18. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

My suggestion is to wait for Surface Pro running a Windows 8 pro. Desktop windows are staying with Microsoft for good unlike RT microsoft may pull the plug to conserve their resources.

24. papss unregistered

Oh I'm already getting a surface pro but if I could get this real cheap my son would love to have his own tablet plus it would keep his hands off mine

11. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1253; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

Everyone wants one until they realize they can't do anything with it besides awkwardly type stuff in Word and browse the web without flash. I'm glad I decided against getting one. Close call!

13. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 2013

I might get one after haswell comes out, its going to be a major improvement gpu/battery life. The new integrated that we will see in them is equal to the low end 650ms so we will be playing pc games on tablets on medium-high.

20. cornerofthemoon

Posts: 620; Member since: Apr 20, 2010

Touchpad 2?

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