Record First-Day Verizon iPhone Sales Put the Lid on Naysayers

News Analysis: Record Verizon Wireless first-day sales prove that iPhone buyers really do want another choice. Despite the carping of naysayers, it looks like sales of Verizon iPhones will live up to all the pre-release hype.

Verizon Wireless reports that iPhone sales on the first day of availability for existing customers broke all first day sales records in the company's history. In fact, the sales record was broken 5 a.m. on Feb. 3 and it had to cut off sales shortly after 8 p.m. on the first day of availability, according to Verizon.

Demand was so great that the company will open up sales again to existing Verizon Wireless customers on Feb. 7, the day before the iPhone goes on sale to the general public.

Contrast this with the many e-mails I've received over the months since I first reported, in June of 2010, that Verizon Wireless would be selling the iPhone in early 2011. I was told by many that all iPhone customers had already bought their phones, and there would be little demand.

I was told that the users would reject Verizon's 3G network because they couldn't talk on the phone and browse the Web at the same time. I was even told there was no need for a Verizon iPhone because AT&T's network was better and faster (I think that e-mail came from an AT&T shill).

But the fact is that the demand for a CDMA version of the highly popular iPhone exceeded Verizon's wildest expectations. The Verizon Website had problems dealing with the traffic all day and users were reporting problems ordering their iPhones starting early that morning. But clearly whatever issues there were, they weren't bad enough to keep people from buying them at a rate that exhausted Verizon's supply. I don't think you can reasonably say that Verizon's customers were rejecting the iPhone.

So why the huge demand? In part because Verizon customers especially want the iPhone because they're already Verizon customers. They know that Verizon's network works for them, they know they've got coverage where they need it and they know that they'll get the service they expect at the price they expect. Leaving a mobile phone carrier that works well for you isn't something most people do lightly. Putting aside the contract issues, there's a level of comfort in staying with a known quantity.

But there's another reason. Many buyers want an iPhone, but not so badly that they are willing to move to AT&T. That company's service problems are legendary, coverage can be spotty and the service is expensive.

While a lot of people are willing to put up with anything to be cool, a lot of people aren't. If they're going to buy a smartphone, it needs to actually make phone calls and do e-mail. AT&T failed many users in that most basic of smartphone requirements and as a result a lot of potential iPhone customers stayed away.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...