With 1.7 million iPhone 4s sold within three days of launch, the only thing Apple’s sorry for is that it couldn’t meet demand.
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said in a press release that the iPhone 4 was the company’s most successful product launch ever. The two previous iPhone models, the 3GS and 3G, both sold more than one million units in their first three days.
“Even so, we apologize to those customers who were turned away because we did not have enough supply,” Jobs said.
Apple might’ve sold more iPhone 4s if not for component shortages. One analyst, Ashok Kumar of Rodman and Renshaw, noted that LG Display couldn’t keep up with LCD screen demand, and DigiTimes reported a rumor that component suppliers in general were overwhelmed, and will continue to have supply problems now that the phone has launched.
Still, Apple must be pleased with the record-breaking sales, especially in light of several reported iPhone 4 hardware problems. iPhone 4 owners have most frequently noted that their signals degrade when covering the phone’s external antenna, housed in metal trim along the sides of the device. Apple has told users to hold their phones differently or buy a bumper case, which to me seems overly dismissive.
Despite those problems, how did Apple take such a huge leap over previous iPhone sales? The company didn’t say, but I can guess at several reasons:
First, the iPhone 4 launched on June 24 in five countries — United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan — compared to only the United States last year (the iPhone 3G launched in 21 countries, but one could argue that iPhone hysteria hadn’t taken hold internationally at that point).
In the United States, AT&T accelerated iPhone 4 eligibility so that anyone whose contracts ran out by the end of 2010 could get the lowest upgrade price. The carrier is probably trying to lock as many people as possible into its new data plans, which drop unlimited usage in favor of 200MB or 2 GB caps with overage charges.
Then there was the leaked iPhone 4 prototype, which fell into Gizmodo’s hands in April. The big news of a front-facing video camera, faster processor, high-resolution display, and new look probably compelled prospective 3GS buyers to wait.
Finally, Apple has mastered brand loyalty. Researchers at Piper Jaffray found that 77 percent of first-day iPhone 4 buyers were repeat customers. With more than 50 million iPhones sold to date, hitting 1.7 million iPhone 4 sales is not unfathomable. As Apple suggests, there could’ve been more.