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iPhone buyers break their contracts to get latest model

Almost half of all iPhone purchasers surveyed broke their existing wireless contracts to bring home the new iPhone 4S, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Would you break your wireless contract to get the iPhone 4S?
Would you break your wireless contract to get the iPhone 4S?

Some mobile users are so eager for Apple's latest iPhone that they'll break their wireless contracts to grab one.

Almost half (45 percent) of iPhone buyers recently polled by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) said they paid a penalty to cancel their contract just to pick up the iPhone 4S. Some switched carriers while others upgraded before their contract ended.

Among these iPhone buyers, 52 percent paid a penalty of $100 to $200, 28 percent paid a penalty of less than $100, and 20 percent shelled out more than $200. But the pain has been felt less by iPhone 4 users, who can typically resell their still-in-demand models for more than the cost of the cancellation fee, noted CIRP.

Among those who upgraded from earlier iPhones, 10 percent moved up from the original 2007 model, 48 percent jumped from the iPhone 3G and 3GS, and 42 percent from the iPhone 4.

Those who upgraded tended to choose the lower-priced 16GB iPhone 4S, while new buyers opted for the more high-end 32GB and 64GB flavors, according to the survey results. Overall, 71 percent of iPhone 4S buyers upgraded from a previous iPhone, while 29 percent were new to the iPhone world.

Among those who switched sides to buy an iPhone, 51 percent had owned an Android device, 42 percent came from a BlackBerry, and 7 percent jumped from a Palm device.

Retail stores took in 57 percent of iPhone sales, with online vendors scooping up 43 percent. CIRP found that Apple, through its retail outlets and Web site, had sold 25 percent of all iPhones.

And with 5,000 stores collectively, the three carriers--Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint--gobbled up 58 percent of all sales, while Best Buy accounted for 13 percent.

To compile its study, CIRP sent an online questionnaire to different social networks from October 31 to November 10. From the 4,631 people who responded, 504 had bought an iPhone on or after October 14 when the iPhone 4S launched and prices dropped for the iPhone 4 and 3GS.

iPhone sales have been stronger than expected this quarter thanks in part to the impact from all three U.S. carriers, according to J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint have all expressed surprise over the strong demand for the iPhone 4S as well as the 4 and 3GS models, said the analyst.

But the reduced pricing on the iPhone 4 and 3GS is also triggering robust sales around the world, especially in China and other emerging markets.

Heavy demand for the entire iPhone family has prompted Moskowitz to raise his estimate on shipments for the fourth quarter. The analyst said he now expects Apple to ship 28 million iPhones for the final quarter of the year, up from his prior forecast of 25.3 million.