Could Apple’s Legacy iPhones Be As Important As The Latest and Greatest?

In new data presented by AllThingsD, a consumer survey issued by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reveals that legacy iPhones — past models that are still available for purchase — account for roughly half of all of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) total iPhone sales, at least when the data was compiled at the end of March.

The most up to date model, the iPhone 5, accounted for 53 percent of all new iPhone sales. The 4S fell in second, with 33 percent, and the iPhone 4 unsurprisingly fell in third, with 14 percent of new iPhone sales. However, the numbers remained far from consistent, and fluctuated month-to-month. In October of last year, the iPhone 5 made up 68 percent of all sales — by December, it had dropped 18 percent to rest at 50.

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Notably, the split doesn’t stay consistent when a new phone is released. When the iPhone 4S was released, it made up 73 percent of sales, whereas the iPhone 4 made up 22, and the iPhone 3GS came in with a minimal 5 percent.

What’s interesting about the difference in splits is that the 5 introduced 4G LTE to the iPhone line, but far fewer people preferred to trade in for the iPhone 5 as they did for the 4S. As AllThingsD points out though, the iPhone 5 is driving growth — but not how you would expect it.

Apple is by no means selling fewer phones. On the contrary, the company has been moving the devices in record numbers — just take a peek at Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) first-quarter iPhone sales figures — but the company is nailing a more price conscious consumer, over one who needs to have the latest and greatest tech. Therefore, more people are satisfied with the 4S, and accordingly shifting the split in favor of the legacy handsets.

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“We’re somewhat surprised that 4/4S sales have remained so strong, at least relative to earlier iPhone product cycles,” CIRP partner Michael Levin told AllThingsD. “There’s plenty of demand for low- and no-cost phones, which tend to flow toward basic phone owners. On average they don’t seem to jump from a cheap or free flip phone all the way to iPhone 5.”

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