Verizon had a happy holiday thanks to the Apple iPhone.
The company's wireless unit sold 4.2 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said during an investor conference. The figure was more than double the number of iPhones sold in the previous quarter.
The figure underscores the enduring popularity of the phone and the importance of the device to each of the carriers, even if it is available now on three national carriers. Verizon considers it an important tool for convincing basic phone users to upgrade to a smartphone and pricier data plan.
The sales jumped thanks to the introduction of the iPhone 4S in October. Prior to the launch, Apple saw disappointing iPhone sales figures as consumers held off on buying the device until the new model arrived. Verizon said it ended the year with a backlog of 120,000 iPhone orders.
Adding the fourth-quarter figure, backlog, and sales from the rest of the year, and Verizon said it sold nearly 11 million iPhones in 2011.
As with the other carriers, the success of the iPhone comes at a cost to Verizon. The more iPhones it sells, the larger hit it takes on the upfront subsidy it must pay to Apple to keep the phone at $199. Shammo said the iPhone would cut gross margins by 500 to 600 basis points.
The carriers have been largely happy to take the margin hit because it leads to customers who pay more and stay with the service longer.
Verizon Wireless is jointly owned by Verizon and Vodafone Group.