How’s RIM’s (RIMM) iPhone rival, the BlackBerry Storm, doing? Not terrible, it seems. While it’s not going to win any design awards, it seems to be just good enough to get many Verizon subscribers to buy it instead of jumping ship to AT&T (T), the iPhone’s exclusive carrier.
Verizon sold “roughly” 500,000 Storms in its first month of sales after its Nov. 21 launch, according to the WSJ, citing “people familiar with the matter.”
How does that compare to the iPhone?
The WSJ’s reporters, arguing that this is a “bumpy start,” compare that to the 2.4 million iPhone 3G devices that Apple (AAPL) sold via AT&T in almost three months after its July 11 launch.
But that’s not a fair comparison.
The iPhone 3G is a significantly better phone, was going back on sale for 50% off after being out of stock for weeks, had a massive amount of pent-up demand, plenty of supply, a media circus, a hot new software platform, a stronger economy flush with tax stimulus checks, and a large number of happy, first-generation iPhone owners who were upgrading to the new device.
The Storm, meanwhile, had many lousy reviews, a stunted app platform, a terrible economy, few people who’d touched one before it went on sale, and a supply shortage — the phone was backordered for weeks, which limited sales.
So 500,000 Storms sold in that one month actually sounds like a pretty good number for Verizon.
Let’s try some different numbers. Morgan Stanley estimates that Apple sold 1.75 million iPhones in the U.S. during Q4, down about 25% from Q3. If true, that’s an average 583,000 iPhones sold per month — not too much more than the Storm’s sales rate in its first month. (Most phone manufacturers would love that, by the way. Just 300,000 people bought the Google phone during Q4, Morgan Stanley estimates.)
Bigger picture: That’s 500,000 subscribers that either switched to Verizon from another service, or who didn’t leave Verizon for AT&T and the iPhone. And even if those subscribers were already Verizon customers, many are probably first-time smartphone owners, meaning they have to pay steeper monthly fees, including a mandatory data plan.
It’s too early to call the Storm a hit. There’s a lot of features RIM needs to go back to the drawing board with, such as the awkward “click” touchscreen, missing wi-fi Internet access, and unimpressive software. But if it really sold 500,000 units in one month — in short supply — it’s not an outright failure.
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