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Orange sells 30,000 iPhones in U.K. on first day

The U.K. carrier sells six times more iPhones in one day than China Unicom did over its opening weekend. Not bad for being the second carrier in a much smaller country.

U.K. wireless carrier Orange just started selling the iPhone, and it is trumpeting first-day sales numbers for the device.

iPhone on Orange

The carrier signed up 30,000 people with a new iPhone contract on Tuesday, its first day selling Apple's smartphone, according to a post on Twitter from a member of Orange's marketing department.

While 30,000 isn't necessarily a lot, compared to the "hundreds of thousands" of iPhones AT&T sold in its first weekend selling the iPhone 3GS in the United States, it's not bad for being the second carrier in a much smaller country, where the iPhone 3GS has been available for four months.

Until Tuesday, wireless provider O2 was the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United Kingdom. Orange currently has 16 million mobile customers, compared to O2's 22 million. Incidentally, Orange's experience as the second carrier of the device in a country would seem to make a decent case for Apple releasing the iPhone to more than one carrier in many other countries, including the United States.

The numbers were far more impressive than the iPhone's debut on China Unicom's network last week. China's first crack at selling the iPhone was by most accounts disappointing, with 5,000 units sold over the first four-day period.

Of course, China Unicom is dealing with factors Orange is not. Besides having to sell the iPhone without Wi-Fi connectivity, China has to contend with something U.K. and U.S. carriers largely do not: a vast market for iPhone knockoffs, or gray-market phones.