iPhones in use in the US rise to 94M, new study suggests

No shock: the iPhone 6 line is off to a strong start. More surprisingly, some 8 million iPhone 4S devices are still in US hands.

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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

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus is proving popular, new data from CIRP shows. CNET

If you're interested in seeing an iPhone in person, chances are, you won't have to look too far, new data from research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows.

An estimated total of 94 million iPhones were in use in the US at the end of March, including 38 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units, CIRP said Friday. That 38 million figure is made up of 25 million iPhone 6 units and 13 million iPhone 6 models, according to the company's estimates. CIRP also discovered that there are still 8 million iPhone 4S devices in use in the US, despite the handset launching in 2011.

CIRP's data is based on a survey of 500 US Apple customers conducted in March. The sample population included customers who purchased an iPhone, iPad or Mac.

To put that in some context: Research firm eMarketer estimates 184.2 million people in the US will use a smartphone this year, representing 71.6 percent of mobile phone users and 57.3 percent of the population. By 2018, the firm predicts penetration will reach 82 percent of mobile phone users and 66.9 percent of the US population, with a total of 220 million smartphone users.

Apple launched its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to much fanfare last September. The devices featured an all-new design and feature the largest screens yet in the iPhone lineup, boasting a 4.7-inch display in the iPhone 6 and a 5.5-inch screen for the iPhone 6 Plus. Pricing on a two-year contract starts at $199 for the iPhone 6 and $299 on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple doesn't provide sales numbers of its iPhones by market or version, deciding instead to provide a cumulative worldwide number. Still, since the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have launched, Apple has tallied record sales worldwide. In the fiscal quarter ended December 27, Apple sold a record-breaking 74.5 million iPhones. In its last-reported quarter ended March 28, Apple said that it sold 61.2 million iPhones -- a record for that quarter.

Best of all for Apple, its contingent of iPhone users is on the rise. According to CIRP, in March 2012, Apple had a little over 20 million iPhone owners in the US. Last March, that figure stood at about 70 million iPhone owners. At nearly 100 million, Apple has continued to grow its user base and consolidate its power in the US.

CIRP says that while just 40 percent of US iPhone owners have upgraded to new models, those who own previous models, including the iPhone 5S, have only had their devices for "at most 18 months." Therefore, CIRP believes that customers will only start to upgrade to a new iPhone in the next couple of quarters, rather than immediately take the plunge in droves. Ironically, a similar scenario could play out with the elderly iPhone 4S.

"There are still 8 million iPhone 4S phones, dating back to 2011, in use," CIRP co-founder and partner Josh Lowitz said in a statement. "While they are ripe for upgrade, many of these consumers have owned their iPhone 4S for only a fraction of its three and a half years on the market. The size of this upgrade cohort, relative to the number of new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units sold, suggests that the coming quarters may prove challenging for Apple in the US."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.