iPhone 4S hits record 4 million sales, says Apple

Apple today said that it had sold more than 4 million iPhone 4Ssmartphones since the device reached retail last Friday.

That’s a record for Apple, which last year touted iPhone 4 sales of 1.7 million in its first three days of retail availability. The early iPhone 4S sales were fourtimes the number of iPhone 3GS devices sold in the same period in 2009.

“[The] iPhone 4S is off to a great start with more than four millionsold in its first weekend — the most ever for a phone and more thandouble the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days,” said Apple’shead marketing executive, Philip Schiller, in a statement.

Apple also said that more than 20 million users of its tablets andolder smartphones had upgraded to iOS 5, the mobileoperating system refresh that the company delivered last Wednesday, andthat about the same amount had signed up to use iCloud, the online sync andbackup service introduced that same day.

“Fantastic,” said Brian Marshall, an analyst with InternationalStrategy and Investment Group (ISI), of the iPhone 4S sales. “Apple isdoing really well, and the stock has been so powerful in the lastcouple of weeks that I just see no reason why anyone would sell.”

Previously, Marshall had predicted opening weekend sales — includingthose sold via pre-orders by Apple and carriers in the days leading upto last Friday — at 3 million, a number he said was consistent withWall Street’s consensus.

“They obviously over-performed,” said Marshall.

Another analyst agreed.

“Clearly, this is stronger launch than the market had originallyanticipated,” said Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities, in a note toclients today.

Marshall said he was sticking to his earlier estimates of iPhone salesof 20.8 million for the quarter that ended Sept. 30 and 23.2 millionfor the year’s fourth quarter, playing it conservative until Applereleases its third-quarter sales figurestomorrow afternoon.

White, however, bumped up his projected sales of 19.9 million in thethird quarter to 22 million after returning from a trip to Asia, wherehe met with Apple suppliers and Chinese mobile carriers.

Apple’s blow-out weekend was not completely unexpected: On Friday,AT&T said it had activated a record number of iPhones on itsnetwork by the end of the working day, and was on track to double theprevious one-day record.

“Apple executed this with precision,” said Andrew Eisner, director ofcontent for Retrevo, an electronics shopping and review website, in aninterview late Friday. “Activations went smoothly for the most part,and Apple had lots of stock.”

Short supplies and new-phone activations were twoproblems Apple has wrestled with in past iPhone launches, includinglast year’s iPhone 4.

The former remains an issue, however, after the big sales weekend:Apple currently lists the iPhone 4s as backlogged one-to-two weeks,while some carriers have an even longer wait. AT&T, forexample, is telling customers that an ordered iPhone 4S will ship in21-to-28 days from the order date.

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