Don’t get caught up in the hype around hundreds of thousands of “missing” iPhones. We know where they are: They’ve been purchased by AT&T and Apple’s European carrier partners, who will resell them to customers.
How’d we figure it out? By listening to AT&T’s Q4 earnings call, where the company explained that it has phones it bought from Apple but had yet to sell itself in its inventory.
Also, we just read Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster’s new note, which walks through the maths on the “missing phones”: At the end of 2007, Apple said it had sold 3.7 million iPhones. AT&T said yesterday it had activated about 2 million during that same period, leaving 1.7 million iPhones unaccounted for. Munster estimates 350,000 phones were sold in Europe, and that 25% of Apple’s U.S. iPhone sales — 838,000 — were to people who bought the devices to “unlock” them, either to use on T-Mobile, on foreign carriers, or as $400 iPods. That leaves 512,000 “missing” phones — retail inventory. Mystery solved.
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