Sales figures from comScore released today show that the high-priced flagship smartphones on sale at US mobile networks were their biggest earners - despite only just placing in the top ten for volume.

The Apple iPhone at AT&T, the HTC G1 at T-Mobile and the BlackBerry Storm at Verizon all ranked first for online sales revenue direct from their websites. All were the sites' eighth or ninth best sellers in terms of volume.

Only the Samsung Instinct lacked the killer instinct at Sprint, placing seventh in terms of revenue and a poor 15th for volume.

Budget bonanza

The top selling handset at each network were, unsurprisingly, lower-end devices boasting cheap or free up-front price-tags. In fact, 99 per cent of the best-selling LG VX8350s sold at Verizon and 100 per cent of the most popular Motorola RIZR Z3 devices at T-Mobile were handed out for nothing.

"Generally speaking, online is the place to go for free phones," said comScore Vice-President Brian Jurutka. "The LG Rumor, in particular, was a huge volume driver on Sprint's site, with more than three times the unit volume of the next closest phone and 86 per cent of the units being sold for free."

Overall, a significant proportion of each network's online sales included free handsets. Verizon was the stingiest at 48 per cent, Sprint was next with 54 per cent, then T-Mobile with 61 per cent. Three quarters of phones sold on the AT&T website were given away for free - although usually with those bothersome long-term contracts.