Apple iPhone figures: AT&T reveals all

Initial activation figures from mobile operator AT&T suggest the Apple iPhone may not have sold in as great a number as some analysts had estimated

Some 146,000 Apple iPhones were activated in the first two days on sale, according to the latest quarterly figures from AT&T - suggesting opening weekend analyst estimates of up to 700,000 iPhones sold were far too high.

The iPhone activation figures were reported by AT&T as part of its second quarter results. AT&T is Apple's exclusive US mobile partner and sole carrier for the iPhone. In its results, AT&T described iPhone sales as "robust" and said they had "continued to be strong in July". The AT&T iPhone activation numbers are the first official indication of how well the iPhone sold on its first two days on sale - June 29th and 30th - the last two days of AT&T's financial quarter.

The headline 146,000 figure doesn't tell the whole story, however. Not every Apple iPhone bought on the first two days of sale would have been activated immediately, and a number of new iPhone users reported initial difficulties in activating their handsets on AT&T's system. A large number of non-activated iPhones appeared on eBay and other auction sites shortly after the launch too, as speculators attempted to cash in on the expected demand for the iPhone.

None the less, the AT&T figures suggest some analysts estimates of up to 700,000 iPhones sold over the opening sales weekend are wide of the mark. Apple itself is releasing its fiscal year 2007 third quarter results tomorrow (Wednesday 25th June), and is expected to post details of how many iPhones were sold over the last two days of June.

Sold but not out

AT&T reported that 40 per cent of the iPhone connections over the two-day period were new customers, reflecting the strong customer pulling power of the iPhone for mobile operators. The figure will no doubt interest Apple's prospective iPhone operator partners in Europe.

AT&T's quarterly profits were better than analysts expected - up 61 per cent to $2.9 billion, on revenue of $29.5 billion. This was mainly due to strong wireless subscriber growth. Its stock price dipped slightly on the back of the iPhone figures, however, while Apple's share price fell back up to 5 per cent after the AT&T results were digested.

The New York Times reported analyst reactions to the AT&T iPhone figures: "They likely sold many more phones than they activated," commented Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. "That being said, the Street was probably around 250,000, so it's maybe a bit light."