09:55 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren

Did The Verizon iPhone Fizzle?

The iPhone 4 became available from Verizon Wireless nearly four years after the device launched on AT&T. Did anyone buy it?

The iPhone 4 became available from Verizon Wireless nearly four years after the device launched on AT&T. Did anyone buy it?The Apple iPhone hit Verizon and Apple store shelves on February 10, nearly four years after the device launched with AT&T. Despite record pre-orders, lines of anxious iPhone hopefuls outside of Apple and Verizon stores were not what people expected.

People did brave frigid temperatures around the country to line up at some locations, but the numbers were much thinner than anticipated. At Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store in Manhattan, for example, only a handful of people lined up. Last summer, the line had hundreds of people in it. Some people waited up to nine hours in that line to get their iPhone 4.

Reports from across the U.S. showed small lines. None of the lines were as massive as those that formed last summer when the iPhone 4 went on sale.

Does that mean the Verizon iPhone failed? No.

Remember, Verizon and Apple let existing Verizon Wireless customers pre-order the device. The bulk of those devices were to be delivered directly to customer's homes, negating the need for them to get out and get in line at retail shops on a bitter cold day in February.

Verizon didn't say how many devices were going to be available at launch, but it sold through its entire initial inventory in less than 18 hours on February 3. (Rough estimates place that number near 500,000.)

Half a million may not be the biggest number in the world compared to the iPhone's previous launch days, but remember that millions of Americans already have iPhones and are locked into contracts with AT&T for another 18+ months. Verizon's existing customers who hungered for the iPhone pre-ordered it last week, they didn't get in line yesterday when the device became available to the general public. The people in line at stores yesterday were the few non-Verizon customers who haven't already purchased an iPhone from AT&T.

Another factor to consider: AT&T offered the iPhone 4 to nearly all its customers at the lowest subsidized price. Verizon didn't. AT&T allowed people to get the iPhone on the cheap even if they were smack in the middle of their two-year contract. Verizon didn't. Verizon didn't offer a single incentive to existing or new customers to convince them to drop their current device and switch up. Early termination fees -- especially for smartphones -- are painful to eat on top of the cost of a new device.

It's fair to say that Apple and Verizon didn't surpass 1 million iPhone 4s sold on the first day of availability, or we would have heard about it by now. Now that it is here, however, expect it to be a steady seller for Verizon over the months to come as more people become eligible to buy it at a reasonable price.

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