iphone sales figures 2009: fastest selling gadget in history? Not quite!

Key Facts

Click here for UK smartphone stats, June 2011

Q3 2010 Smartphone Sales Figures (including the iPhone)

Latest smartphone figures: Apple’s market share drops, but iPhone’s profit outstrips all the others

iphone AND ipodtouch sales 2009 18.5% of Apple turnover (up from 5.7%)
Number of units sold (all versions over 24 months): 52 million
Number of UK units sold to (all versions since release): Estimated at 1.5 million*
Motorola Razr units sold: 110 million
Smartphone market shares (Q3 2009): Nokia 39.7%, RIM/Blackberry 20.6%, Apple 17.8%

*The last published sales figures from O2 were 1 million iphones in Feb 2009

Related Links:

Has the iphone’s sales peaked?
Teenagers want a Blackberry
Click here for more info on the smartphone market
iphone app usage statistics
Developing iphone apps for brands

The latest sales figures released by Apple (reported in ME News) show that the iphone is becoming increasingly important to their bottom line. Apple are currently taking third place in the smartphone market, behind RIM and Nokia.

With an increase from 5.7% to 18.5% of the turnover for the iphone, it has reduced the company’s dependance on ipod and Mac sales, which fell in 2009.
However, the claim in a techcrunch article that the iphone/ipodtouch is the fastest gadget in history doesn’t seem to be entirely acurate. In an article ‘How the iphone is blowing everyone else away‘, it suggests that Apple have created a consumer electronics device that has sold faster than the Nintedo Wii or PSP 2 etc.

These figures just don’t seem to add up to me:

There are actually two devices: the iphone and the ipod touch. One is a phone and the other is a media player, making them two quite distinctive markets. The fact that some people own both is evidence of this.

If we look purely at the iphone itself, then it has a lot of catching up to do before it reaches the sales levels of the Motorola Razr: 50 million units in first 18 months and 110 million units in total. It’s taken Apple more like 24 months to sell 57 million units. And the Razr sales were for a single device, unlike the iphone figures, which include the original version, the 3G and 3Gs versions (and the ipod touch). So many of those are upgrades from existing owners.
If we want to count all of the later Razr models it massively out strips the iphone levels of sales to date.

There is no denying the popularity of the device. For example 60% of mobile internet browsing comes from iphones/ipod touches. A great example of the success of the interface and browsing capabilities.

Yet again, it needs to be seen in context. Prior to the iphone, the options in the US for mobile internet connectivity were limited and slow. Similarly the 3G connection in the US is often faster than the available landline connections, so it is hardly surprising that iphone web browsing has proved so popular.

In short, whilst the iphone is undoubtedly successful, it is important not to read too much into the claims made from the figures.

Related Information: iphone app usage statistics
Developing iphone apps for brands
Why do brands love the iphone?

14 thoughts on “iphone sales figures 2009: fastest selling gadget in history? Not quite!

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    • There’s no doubting Steve Job’s genius: he’s been behind some of the world’s most iconic products, he invested in Pixar and even told us in the 80s that the future of computing was networking (with the NeXt). However, Apple’s PR has exceeded their position in the market. It is not the most successful mobile phone ever (they still have to beat the Razr – 110 million sales – and Nokia’s 1100 – 200 million sales), neither are they the most successful in the market place. Apple have a 17% share of the smartphone market behind Nokia and RIM. I am of the firm belief that the iphone will keep a similar position in the market to the Mac – cool but niche.

  3. Pingback: UK iphone sales figures « The future of mobile and mobile marketing

  4. wrong about Motorola Razr

    the writer did what he accused iphone fans of doing, meaning not checking into all the facts

    the facts being that Motorola Razr is available with all 3 major carriers, at&t, tmobile and verizon so to be fair in comparison you’d have to take Razr’s 110million and devide it be 3 which gives you only about 36.66 million to comare to iphones 57million that anyone could easily say would triple if it was available through all three carriers too

    • Thanks for your comment. The issue here is not the accuracy of the figures – I have checked my facts and they are widely published and correctly quoted. The issue is one of interpretation of the figures. Your approach is to compare on the basis of available outlets (ie carriers). This is an interesting way to make a comparisson, and one I have never seen used for any product before! However, there is always more than one way to interpret figures. For starters those figures are worldwide and in France and the UK (where iphone sales have also been pretty good), the handset is available across more than one network. However, Apple has chosen to take a specific business model with the iphone in which they are not looking to be mass market. Whilst the iphone is the market leader in some respects, they never intended it to be the best selling phone.
      Another thing to bear in mind is that the iphone sales figures include the original model, the 3G and 3GS. We know that a significant number of those were upgrades and I have seen others quote figures of around 30 million actual iphone users. The Razr BTW was just one model.
      You also suggest that I’m not an iphone fan. I am. I own one (well technically two, because I bought one for my partner. Or should I be using your calculations and call that 6 iphones?). I would also call myself a die hard Apple fan, as I’ve been using Macs for nearly 25 years. The reason why I write this blog is that I felt a clarification was needed. Apple have some of the best PR out there, in part thanks to their users, but sometimes that PR tends to run away with itself. I work with a lot of advertising agencies and they assume that everyone has, or wants an iphone. That is far from the reality. In the US although the iphone is massively popular, it is still only 3.5% of the handset market (or is that 10.5%?). That means that 96.5% of people (or 89.5% using your calculations) DON’T have an iphone. So, to focus marketing campaigns on just a small number of users is a mistake. It’s important that we bring people’s attention to that fact.

      • AT&T, in getting the exclusive on the iPhone, devoted huge marketing resources, capitalizing on the huge wave of free global advertising via the press. This push gave the product far more visibility and attention than the product would have received if it had been in the hands of three competing retailers, so the idea that sales might have tripled if the iPhone was sold through multiple retailers is not a good assertion.

        Apple also made money from Day 1 on the iPhone. Lots of money! great marketing, great hype, but a great product.

  5. The reason the Razr was so popular is because it was dirt cheap. At first, it was very expensive $500- and very cool and acclaimed. In short time, Motorola flooded the market and carriers heavily subsidized it to $99 and many to free with new contract agreement. It was pushed through the whole product life cycle- from high-end to mass-market to low-end commodity and Motorola didn’t have a new hot device to restart the product cycle.

    Higher unit sales doesn’t mean greater success. Nokia couple quarters back sold over 100 million units for $10B in revenue and $1B in operating profit. whereby Apple sold 7 million units generating ~$4.5 billion in sales BUT nearly $2 Billion in operating profit. Nokia sold 15x more units than Apple but only made half of Apple’s profits.

    Higher market share isn’t necessarily better. If you can charge a high price & profit margin, then market share (unit volume) doesn’t need to be large.

    Apple’s average selling price per iPhone is ~$630 where Blackberry is $310, Nokia $100.

    It remains to be unseen if Apple will try to take the iPhone mainstream with a entry-level, cheaper model. Blackberry is doing this now. Apple probably will continue to focus on the high end, and choose to sell less units.

    The mobile web browsing figure you state is flawed. It’s from AdMob which measures ad impressions from it’s network, but nearly all it’s ads are served in iPhone apps. So, it’s a very skewed measure. Android has taken off only because AdMob recently started serving ads in those apps.

    Originally, mobile web usage was much much higher on iPhone since internet was unusable on any other device. Absolutely worthless. iPhone revolutionized the Mobile browser.

    In the US majority of internet users have broadband landline connections (cable & dsl) which is much faster than 3G mobile. Most use phone on WiFi in their homes or hotspots, and just rely on 3G when mobile.

    • Thanks for the comments. It’s always good to get some additional perspective.
      I take all the points that you are making, but low price or not, the Razr has sold double the iphone. The point is that people need to have some perspective. The original claim was that the iphone was the fastest selling phone ever. It isn’t (regardless of price). It may be the fastest selling $630 phone, but that wasn’t the claim!
      I keep having to remind my ad agency clients that not all phones are iphones. In the UK it is 4% at best, 3.5% in the US. In other words at least 94% of people DON’T have an iphone.
      In terms of the browsing figures, I take your point about Admob’s skew. Sadly they are the only figures out there, however the point here is that iphone users are heavy surfers. I don’t think there’s much doubt about it.

  6. I wanted to know if possible an approximate number of sales worldwide for the i Phone and the i Pod touch. can you provide me such information? I am looking into the i Phone for advertising and interested in sales statistitcs. Congradulations for your site.

  7. Pingback: Just an IT Teacher » Blog Archive » America is hands on

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