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.
Verizon iPhone Likely to Reshape Smartphone Market
Now that Verizon is in the market, those customers aren’t staying away. But the next question is where they’re coming from. Right now, these are all Verizon Wireless customers many of whom presumably have some sort of smart phone already. Are these Android users who weren’t willing to go to AT&T? Potential smart phone customers who were sticking with their old flip phones, knowing that eventually they could get what they really want?
Right now, we don’t know because Verizon hasn’t released that information. Probably it’s some of both, as well as owners of other smartphones who want an upgrade and see this as the way they want to get one. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of old Windows Mobile 6.0 phones among those being replaced.
The question after that is what this will do to Android sales. Verizon Wireless has been a major proponent of Android devices and its Droid line of smartphones has probably done more to advance the popularity of the Android OS than any other. Will Verizon keep the same focus on Android that it has so far? Or will the iPhone, and its huge popularity, change Verizon’s focus to the Apple product? Again, I think there will be a little of both.
Verizon’s Droid line of phones, especially the later Droid X and Droid 2, are seriously good smartphones. They have a wealth of features not available to the iPhone, and they have their own loyal, perhaps even rabid, following. But it will be hard to resist the siren call of the iPhone. People will be switching to Verizon to have an iPhone and in the process loading up the 3G network with their data-hungry habits.
The Android crowd, on the other hand, will be getting Verizon’s 4G LTE phones in the near future – something that the iPhone can’t do. At this point, we don’t know whether the iPhone 5 will support LTE or not. That phone won’t be introduced until this summer and it’s too early to know exactly what features it will include. So it seems that there is something for both smart phone camps. The iPhone crowd will have what they want-an iPhone that’s not from AT&T, and the Android camp will get 4G. Seems like a win-win for everyone, but especially for Verizon Wireless.