Estimating iPhone sales in the US during Q4

Verizon has been the first source of data on iPhone sales for Q4. They reported 4.2 million iPhones sold. The first quarter of Verizon iPhone sales had 2.2 million units, followed 2.3 million in Q2 and 2 million in Q3. The total for the calendar year came at 10.7 million.

The total for AT&T during the first three quarters has been 9.9 million. If we assume the same 2x sequential increase in Q4 relative to Q3 as observed by Verizon we obtain an estimate of 5.4 million iPhone for AT&T.[1]

The quarter also saw the addition of Sprint to the US iPhone distribution network. Sprint is rumored to have committed to buy 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years. My estimate for the first year was 7 million, placing first quarter sell-in at about 2 million.

An approximate total for Q4 US iPhone activations results in 11.6 million. The following chart illustrates these estimates:


  1. AT&T reported that smartphone sales during October and November totaled over 6 million units. Assuming only 2 million for December and a 70% iPhone mix yields 5.6 million units.
  • GeneParmigiana

    Why make Verizon yellow and Sprint red? Backwards. Confusing.

    • Since when is red = brown? Definitely confused.

      • GeneParmigiana

        I believe the colors for Sprint and Verizon in this graph would be a better representation if they were switched/reversed.

      • Why?

      • Nik

        Verizon’s logo is red, and Sprint’s is yellow. 🙂

      • I had never thought it necessary to color charts in the primary colors of the logos of the companies they represent.

      • Anonymous

        Horace, Horace. Steve would be so annoyed! 😉 I wouldn’t have thought of it earlier either, but you have to admit it’s an easy mnemonic, and certainly no worse than a random selection. Perhaps useful in future graphs?

      • And what ahppens if one of the company changes its “brand color”? is Horace supposed to go back and change all his old charts? Waste of time…

      • So what is Apple’s color?

      • Sharon Sharalike

        Green seems appropriate. And perhaps black and blue for RIM. For Samsung, nearly the same appearance as Apple but not quite as nice.

      • GeneParmigiana

        Apple is not represented in this graph as far as I can tell. Choosing blue, yellow, and brown (red-ish) for att, sprint, verizon and asigning 1 of 3 correctly is confusing.

      • Anonymous

        Aluminum, obviously! Or whatever is left.

        Seriously, it’s a small thing not worth all that much discussion, but I think continuing to make changes in the future graphs to make them as clear and communicative as possible is always worthwhile. FWIW I think you already pursue that policy, but this does seem like a not unreasonable adjustment for future graphs where possible.

        Beyond the graphic semantics discussion, your result is surprising to me but seems to support Apple’s guidance for the quarter at their last earnings announcement, which seemed at the time out of character in its optimism.

      • Gray.  Use the dark gray used in their favicon.

      • GeneParmigiana

        Horace, what do you hire the colors to do in a graph? What do your readers/users hire the graph to do?

      • Mark

        Not that it matters one bit to me, but if Horace was to follow that path, AT&T should be changed to orange.

      • qka

        It has to do with corporate trademark colors.

         predominant color is red.  
         Sprint’s predominant color is yellow.

    • Canucker

      That isn’t the point of the post which is that Apple is projected to have sold more iPhones in the US in one quarter than in the two previous quarters combined.

  • Rob Scott

    Didn’t AT&T realese a statement that they were breaking records with the iPhone 4S. Also they have the 3GS. I am looking at +12 million units.
    Apple has momentum, I expect another percentage point increase in the market share. They will be the 3rd biggest OEM in the US by March, no doubt about that!

  • Dave

    Great work as always. I beileve PED has made an error on what he amatures iPhone estimates are. If I recall your estimate is 35M iPhone and he has 43M iPhones on his site. 

  • r.d

    12 million US iphone / 40 million Total iphone = 30% US mix.
    12 million US iphone / 30 million Total iphone = 40% US mix.
    Usual mix for US is less than 30%.

    Seem strange that Maynard Um predicted 8 million iphones sold by AT&T.

    Also not in estimate is all the unlocked phones sold in US for tourists and
    grey market.

    • The quarter is unsual too, iPhone 4S was not available in all markets, and even in some of those the availability was restricted. Apple has been preferential to USA in the past, I would not be surprised if it happened again.

      • r.d

        “represent roughly 45 percent of global sales. According to Um, the U.S. mix of Apple’s handset sales hasn’t been that high since June 2009.”

        June 2009 is when iphone 3gs was announced.
        iphone was in 50 countries by 11/25/2011 and 75 12/16/2011.

      • Sh

        Iphone 4s was not available in the q42011. Wouldnt that impact %USmix, hence the total sales of the phone in the quarter?

        In other word I wonder that caused the us mix to be higher end than average. I am interested in seeing correlation between us mix and launch in china

      • Sh

        I meant 4s wasnt available in ” China” in q42011

      • r.d

        China didn’t get ip4 until 9/25/2010.
        full 3 months after the US debut in 6/24/2010.
        whereas Hong Kong got it in 7/30/2010.
        Same scenario as ip4s

    • Sharon S

      “Also not in estimate is all the unlocked phones sold in US for tourists”

      I personally bought three of those just before Christmas.

  • The above chart actually makes me wonder about the worldwide potential for future iPhone sales. If Sprint and Verizon were eliminated as carriers, then the iPhone on AT&T would barely be growing sales at all. But with Sprint and Verizon, the iPhone numbers are nearly doubling.

    It is my understanding that the iPhone is on some 200 carriers worldwide while Android phones are on some 600 carriers worldwide. As Apple continues to expand the number of carriers handing the iPhone, how much will that impact future sales? 

    • Alan

      This I think is the biggest question in regards to the Android and iOS ecosystem “battle”. I’ve seen various reports of the addressable market (in terms of number of subscribers on different carriers, the number of those with at least 3G access, and the number of those with enough disposable income to be able to buy a smartphone) but never a full up comparison of which carriers have which phones and how the different phones do head-to-head on each carrier.

      It seems to me that Android has expanded much more rapidly to various carriers and countries and that may account for how quickly it has grown activations but may also indicate a ceiling or slowing of growth as the total number of carriers is tapped out.

    • Bahranidds

      At last quarter, they had 130 carriers in 105 countries.  I think the 600 figure is more so for RIMM and I think there is a total of either 650 or 750 carriers total.  Bottom line, there is more room to grow for the iphone and AAPL is staging it very well with maintaining amazing margins. 

    • Anonymous

      Depends on the size of the remaining carriers. There really are a handful of big fish left in the pond, like T-Mobile US, China Mobile, China Telecom, NTT Docomo. The rest is small fry, like US carrier C Spire, which may have sold around 50k iPhones last quarter. To increase distribution Apple needs to address the international prepaid market better, ie offer cheaper phones. The $150 price drop on the unlocked iPhone 3GS was a good first step in that direction.

  • I think AT&T is going to at least 6M if not closer to 7M. AT&T did over 5M in Q3 last year which was full quarter of IP4 launch. AT&T probably sold over a 1M at launch last week of Q2. Given that this year the iPhone was 3.5 months later than usual, there should be considerable pent-up demand. And, AT&T sold 6M smartphones in 2 months which probably close to 5M were iPhones. Non-iPhone sales have been slightly above 2M past couple quarters. Or 700K per month. So let’s say 1.4M other were sold in the first 2 months. But that’s probably high given the new iPhone release, plus discounted iPhone 4 and free 3GS. In Q3 last year, the iPhone was 85% of smartphone sales at AT&T. Thus, I think 7M is achievable.

    iPhone will be the #1 smartphone platform for Q4 sales. Market share likely to hit 50%. 

    • Total Unit number was likely constrained by supply. Apple is selling as many iPhones as it can make, so the total units sold in CQ4 were determined by how many they produced  and what channel inventory level was filled into CQ1. Verizon CFO said Wednesday at the Citi Telecom conference that it had at least 120,000 iPhones on backorder as of 12/31/2011. then there is the question whether China Unicom’s iPhone 4S order counts as CQ4 or CQ1 sales (on sale starting Jan. 13). 

      • r.d

        Apple didn’t cheat in 3rd quarter when they could have
        shifted some of 4s sales in order to make wall street happy.
        So why would they do that know.

      • I don’t know.  Accounting rules maybe different for China Unicom in China and it may have taken delivery at the end of 2011, logistics, etc.. 

      • I don’t know.  Accounting rules maybe different for China Unicom in China and it may have taken delivery at the end of 2011, logistics, etc.. 

      • r.d

        This is about Apple.  Apple took order in December
        but is delivering in January.  So will record the sale in January quarter.  They can easily record the sale on order instead of delivery time.

        Accounting rules are joke for the most part just look at the banks not writing down the all the dead investments just like Japan.

    • Gregg Thurman

      This is as good a place to post as any, thanks for letting me use it Turley :  )

      The quarter is over and from now on I’m going to be focused on the conference call, not who sold what.  One of the biggest points I’ll be watching is ending inventory for iPhones.  To me, a low inventory number (less than 4 weeks) indicates that Apple couldn’t produce to meet its historically desired 4 – 6 weeks ending inventory.  Coupled with a blowout unit result this will give us an indication of pent up demand for FQ2 (ahead of China launch).

    • Very good points.

  • dhansen

    Never thought of it before – but marketing color branding within an industry does seem to align with Edward Tufte’s data visualization rules…

  • Jeff

    My prediction for 2012.  Apple will be accused of, and it will be proven that they have been reverse engineering alien technology.  Steve Jobs DNA will be tested and proved to be a hybrid.  New laws will be put in place that are the equivalent of trade laws, to put companies benefiting from alien technology on level playing field with the rest of the mortals.  

    OK.  I obviously I’m just kidding.  It won’t happen till 2012

    • Jeff

      i meant 2013…totally blew the punchline:)

      • Don’t you hate it when that happens? It was a funny gag, too.

      • Don’t you hate it when that happens? It was a funny gag, too.

  • Almostthere

    Just to clarify, AT&T said they sold 6M smartphones through Nov. and that they would sell more in Dec than they did in each of the first two months, implying more than 9M smartphones sold in Q4 for T Using same mix as previous, that would imply 7M iphones at T

  • Historically, US iPhone sale has been about 28-30% of total sales over the last four quarters.  If that is the case, your estimate of 11.6 million US iPhone sold would put total number sold around 40 million units world wide.  Does this make sense to you?  Is it possible?

    • Anonymous

      Edit: Duh. Poor reading comprehension. I’ll leave my post in for posterity’s sake. 😮

      Have you got numbers to back up that 28-30% claim? Because the NPD report discussed at GigaOM ( ) indicate a range of from 10-16% of all phones. If you’re talking about  just smartphone sales, then you’re right. The report for this quarter pegs the number of iPhones relative to all other phones at double the usual numbers.

    • The launch quarter will favor the US in terms of mix. I think 33% is a minimum US mix, possibly 40%.

  • Anonymous

    According to GigaOM’s article on the NPD numbers ( ), Apple sold 43% of all smartphones in the quarter. Going off the 2 out of 3 mix for smartphones, Apple sold 29% of ALL phones last quarter. That can’t be right. But that’s what the numbers say. How many phones were sold in the last quarter?

    • That’s US only retail data and only two months (Oct/Nov).

      • Anonymous

        Fair enough. Still, that’s an astounding number and I’d imagine Dec is at least a little similar. Considering the 4S didn’t go on sale until Oct 14th, it is impressive.

  • Akatcher

    Just an FYI.  I have found by working at a big investment bank that although employees are given Blackberrys for work mail, it has become increasingly more common to see people carrying an iphone as well.