An iPhone surprise: Opening-day sales were slow

AT&T's earnings report reveals that 150,000 people signed up for Apple's new phone during its first two days of sales.

Published July 24, 2007 3:41PM (EDT)

Apple shares slid almost 5 percent this morning after AT&T disclosed an interesting fact in its earnings report: Only 146,000 people signed up for iPhone service during the device's first two days of sales. The number is far below previous estimates of iPhone sales; some analysts had guessed that Apple sold more than 400,000 in its opening weekend.

The iPhone was on sale for just two days during AT&T's third quarter, for which the company released sales numbers today; consequently we only know how well the iPhone did on Friday, June 29 -- "iDay," the day the earliest adopters lined up to get one -- and Saturday, June 30. Moreover, the numbers only tell us about activations, which may not track with sales; as I've pointed out before, it's possible that many people bought opening-day iPhones and, instead of activating them, put them up on eBay. (These auctions, we know, didn't make very many people all that rich, as it's still possible to get the iPhone from Apple directly.)

Still, AT&T's numbers are the first hard data we've seen on iPhone sales, so they aren't completely irrelevant. Selling 150,000 of anything in two days seems a marvelous trick, but considering the stratospheric iPhone expectations -- drummed up all over the place, including this page -- the iPhone, now, looks a little earthbound. But perhaps the picture will be different tomorrow: Apple releases its third-quarter numbers when the market closes.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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