If you've been on any tech site today or this weekend, you've undoubtedly seen multiple reports that the first Android-powered phone from T-Mobile has sold 1.5 million preorder units. This sounds like an amazing feat and quite frankly, I'm not buying it.All of these reports eventually get back to an article from The Motley Fool which says:
The first shipment of the T-Mobile G1 sold out through preorders from existing T-Mobile subscribers, so the company tripled its order to Taiwanese handset maker HTC. The bigger batch sold out, too.
That means that about 1.5 million G1s are destined to fill preorder sales, in addition to another couple of million sets being earmarked for retail sales.
So, we know that T-Mobile did sell out of their preorder allotment and re-upped, but the carrier never said how many units that entailed. As far as I can tell, the 1.5 million figure is made up, or uses tortured math that simplifies previous sales estimates.
T-Mobile, HTC, and Google haven't commented on this report, but wouldn't you expect them to confirm this as soon as possible if it's true? I'd expect press releases, banner ads, and people yelling in the streets if the G1 already has sold more than a million units. And despite the promise of the biggest campaign in T-Mobile's history, I've barely seen much advertising in the casual market even though the release is about a week away.
Poll your non-tech friends. Have they even heard of the G1 and the Android platform? There's surely some mainstream interest, but there's no way the buzz is as big or bigger than it was for the iPhone 3G. By comparison, the iPhone 3G sold 1 million units in its launch weekend in more than 20 countries (with about 500,000 to 700,000 sold in the United States). Additionally, the G1 can only be preordered in the United States by existing T-Mobile customers.
This doesn't even touch upon the logistical nightmare of producing that many new units, as well as the "couple of million sets being earmarked for retail sales." Don't get me wrong: I'm very excited about the Android platform and the G1, and can't wait to tear around the Android Market. But, these sales figures are completely off to me, and it just seems like the tech echo chamber got a little carried away with this one.
I contacted Anders Bylund, the author of the original Motley Fool article that hundreds of stories are citing. I was curious as to how he got these figures and he gave me his rationale.
He cited a Cens.com article that said, "according to industry insiders, T-Mobile is planning to order a total of between 1.5 million and 2 million units of G1 with HTC in the near future, including 400,000 to 500,000 to be sold in the fourth quarter of this year."
Then, Bylund cited T-Mobile selling out of pre-order units, and tripling the number of phones initially available. He then tripled the 500,000 number to get 1.5 million.
The problem I have with this is that the 400,000-500,000 estimate is for all of the fourth quarter, and not necessarily the amount that T-Mobile made available for pre-order.
And this has nothing to do with an iPhone bias, or any other silly grudge some think I have - For heaven's sake, I've been hanging onto my Helio Ocean these last couple months so I could wait for G1 to come out. I think the handset itself is really good, and the platform has the potential to bring some much-needed openness and innovation to the mobile space.
I may be wrong about the pre-sale figures, and the overall mainstream buzz the G1 is getting. But this story just didn't seem right to me, no matter how many times it went through the tech echo chamber.