Apple Sells A Million iPhones In Three Days...Kinda

Dennis Faas's picture

Apple claims to have sold a million of its new iPhones in three days, but that doesn't mean a million people now have one. The company recently put out a press release saying it had sold the millionth iPhone 3G. Noting the phone is on sale in 21 countries, CEO Steve Jobs said "It took 74 days to sell the first one million original iPhones, so the new iPhone 3G is clearly off to a great start around the world." (Source:

However, that figure is somewhat misleading. Fortune magazine reports that Apple only counts its own sales when somebody hands over the money in an Apple store. But the one million figure also includes phones sold through carriers such as AT&T, which Apple counts as sales as soon as they leave the distribution centre in Asia. (Source:

So, not only does the figure include phones that carriers have ordered hoping to sell to customers later, but many of those which have been earmarked by customers may well still be on ships.

This type of sales recording isn't that unusual; many charts, including the New York Times Bestseller list, are based on sales to wholesalers rather than individual consumers. However, while this does allow for a sensible comparison between rival products (stores obviously base their ordering on how strong consumer demand is), it makes individual numbers unreliable.

So, how many people actually have a new iPhone in their pocket? There's no official figure, but an independent analyst has come up with an estimate of 425,000. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray reached that figure through a survey of how many people were getting phones activated in various stores -- an estimated average of 28 per hour, per store.

Of course, other than affecting how popular would-be buyers perceive the phone, the actual sales after a few days aren't that important. Apple has a target of 10 million sales this year, so the initial rush is much less significant than its long-term sales, and specifically its popularity as a Christmas gift.

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