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Sprint overstated Evo 4G launch day sales

Company now says number of phones it sold on the first day was in line with the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre phones sold over the first three days combined.

Sprint's first-day sales of the HTC Evo 4G phone were good, but not quite as good as the carrier initially stated.

HTC Evo 4G Sarah Tew/CNET

Sprint acknowledged Tuesday that it had overstated launch-date sales of the new Evo smartphone--the first 4G phone available in the United States. Sprint, its exclusive carrier, originally said that sales on Friday were three times the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices that it sold over their first three days combined.

But Evo sales on launch day were actually in line with the number of Instinct and Pre phones sold over the first three days combined. In clearing up the figures, Sprint gave no specific reason why it had misspoke but simply said it had erred in the comparison.

BTIG analyst and Sprint watcher Walter Piecyk said he now believes Sprint sold 150,000 Evos over the first weekend, down from his earlier forecast of 250,000 to 300,000 units. Based on calls to several stores, Piecyk also found that the phone is in short supply, so he doesn't expect sales numbers for the first week to grow dramatically.

The analyst expressed surprise that Sprint didn't have enough inventory to fill customer demand and questioned why the company didn't stock up with an extra 100,000 phones even if it meant carrying some excess inventory to the end of the quarter. Among the more than 20 stores that Piecyk contacted, he also discovered that there were problems activating the Evo.

Sprint has acknowledged temporary shortages of the Evo at several outlets, including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, RadioShack, and Sprint's own retail stores, but said that it's working to replenish the stock, with many stores receiving daily deliveries of the smartphone.

But with this week's buzz about Apple's upcoming iPhone 4, the Evo has already been pushed off the pages of the mainstream press, according to Piecyk.

Sprint has been struggling to rebound from a tough 2009 when it was hit by higher losses, lower sales, and more customer defections. So far this year, the company has shown some signs of a recovery with fewer customers jumping ship, though losses have continued to mount. Sprint is looking to its 4G coverage to provide a competitive edge against rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which are still racing to launch their 4G networks sometime next year.