Monday, October 17, 2011 at 10:17 am.

Apple’s 4-million-iPhone-4S weekend in context

iPhone 4S weekend chartApple announced this morning that it sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S units over the weekend. That is an Apple record, a mobile phone record — according to Apple — and maybe even a consumer electronics record.

For context, it took Microsoft 25 days to sell 2.5 million Kinect devices. The Kinect was supposedly the fastest consumer electronics device to reach 10 million devices sold, which took four months. Apple should have no problem beating that record this quarter.

More context:

  • Apple’s weekend was more than twice as good as last year’s iPhone 4 launch, when it sold more than 1.7 million iPhone 4 phones in the first three days. However, if you recall, Apple quickly sold out of iPhone 4 units, so this number could have been much higher. “[W]e apologize to those customers who were turned away because we did not have enough supply,” Steve Jobs said in the release.
  • One thing that helped Apple is a much larger potential customer base this time. Within the U.S., Apple’s biggest country, the addition of Verizon Wireless and Sprint more than doubled Apple’s potential reach, to roughly 240 million subscribers, up from 90 million at AT&T a year ago. And Apple launched this year’s phone in more countries than last year’s: Specifically, the iPhone 4S launched last Friday in 7 countries: the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. Last summer, the iPhone 4 only launched in 5 countries: the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Japan.
  • Assuming an average sales price of more than $500 — a safe assumption — Apple pulled in $2 billion in iPhone revenue because of this. That doesn’t include accessories, app sales, iCloud upgrades, etc. Assuming a $650 ASP and some app sales, Apple could have pushed $3 billion.
  • Again, this is probably — as Apple says in its release – “the most ever for a phone” in terms of opening-3-day sales.
  • It’s more than the number of original iPhones that Apple sold in its first six months: 3.7 million in the second half of 2007 (including launch weekend in late June).
  • It’s almost as many as Apple sold in the entire Christmas quarter of 2008, when it sold 4.4 million iPhones. And almost half as many as the December quarter in 2009, when it sold 8.7 million. And almost a quarter as many as the December quarter in 2010, when it sold 16.2 million.

I assume that the iPhone 4S design is helping here. My guess is that Apple could more easily ramp up iPhone 4S production, now that it has already perfected the case manufacturing. This might not have even been possible with an all-new iPhone 5. Now we’ll have to see if Apple can keep the iPhone 4S in stock throughout the holidays. That seems like it could be the main limiting factor on sales.

Related: Analyzing Apple’s product cycles: Why the iPhone 4S shouldn’t surprise you