Apple sells 4 million iPhone 4S units in first weekend

The latest phone from Apple sets a record, as sales worldwide for the first three days double those for its predecessor, the iPhone 4.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read
The iPhone 4S is wildly popular, Apple says.
The iPhone 4S is wildly popular, Apple says. Apple

The iPhone 4S had a huge weekend on store shelves--or more precisely, leaping off store shelves.

Apple said today that it sold 4 million iPhone 4S units worldwide between Friday and Sunday. According to Apple senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, that figure is "more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days." Last year, Apple announced that it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units in the smartphone's first weekend of availability.

That said, it's worth noting that at least in the U.S., the iPhone 4S had a bit of an advantage over the iPhone 4. When Apple shipped the iPhone 4 last year, the device was available only to AT&T customers. The handset then came to Verizon Wireless earlier this year and Sprint last week. The iPhone 4S, however, launched with availability on Sprint's and Verizon's networks, in addition to AT&T's service.

Apple's iPhone 4S, which launched on Friday, features the same design as the iPhone 4, but adds several improvements, including a dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, and full 1080p HD video recording. The device also ships with support for virtual personal assistant application, Siri.

Last week, several analysts chimed in on how many unit sales they expected Apple to sell over the weekend. The majority of those folks said that sales would likely hit between 2 million units and 3 million units. However, the Yankee Group thought sales could hit 4 million units.

"The biggest factor driving this is the huge loyalty associated with Apple phones," Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe said. "They have the highest loyalty of any of the smartphone OSes."

For the first time, Sprint was a beneficiary of that. The company reported on Friday that as of 10 a.m. PT, it had witnessed a record sales day. But it wasn't alone: by 1:30 p.m. PT, AT&T said that it had activated a record number of iPhones.

The success of the iPhone 4S in its first weekend of availability seems to eliminate all doubt over consumer reactions to the device. Earlier this month, when Apple unveiled the new iPhone, the company was expected to show off the iPhone 5, as well. That device, rumors suggested, would be the major update consumers were expecting. After it wasn't revealed, however, many called the event a disappointment. But the smartphone's early sales figures seem to prove that many consumers had a much different reaction to the smartphone.

It also appears that some folks are moving to the iPhone 4S from other platforms. In a small, informal poll Reuters conducted on Friday, the news service found that nearly 25 percent of iPhone 4S buyers were ditching a BlackBerry, Symbian, or Android smartphone for Apple's latest device.

Aside from the iPhone 4S, Apple also said that 25 million users have already started using its new mobile operating system version, iOS 5, and 20 million folks have signed up for iCloud.

Although 20 million iCloud users is impressive in its own right, some analysts believe the service will grow to much greater heights in the future. Over the summer, RBC Capital Markets released a study that found 76 percent of the 1,500 iPhone users it polled planned to sign up for iCloud. By applying that percentage to the entire market, the firm said that it believes as many as 150 million users could sign up for iCloud eventually.

Following its announcement, Apple's shares are trading up $1.10 to $423.10 as of this writing.

Update at 6:39 a.m. PT to include more details.