How Many iPhones Did Verizon Sell?

Statements made by Verizon (NYSE:VZ) about smartphone sales in 2012, specifically Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone sales, paint an unclear picture of just how well the iPhone did with the nation’s largest mobile carrier, and also demonstrates how incredibly vague the English language allows one to be.

The Numbers:

Some mobile carrier figures were straightforward: AT&T (NYSE:T) reported the activation of some 10 million smartphones, with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) close behind at 9.8 million activations for the holiday quarter. In the previous quarter, Verizon said the iPhone made up 46 percent of its smartphone activations — compared to 54.5 percent in the previous holiday quarter. Sprint (NYSE:S) doesn’t have figures out yet, and T-Mobile hasn’t even begun selling the iPhone, though it will start to later this year.

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Where the vagueness arises is in a few of Verizon’s choice words. The carrier said that in its smartphone activations there was a “higher mix of Apple smartphones,” but there is no point of reference for the comparison. The “higher mix” could be higher quarter-on-quarter, year-on-year, or even simply more iPhones than non-Apple brands. If it were higher year-on-year, Verizon would have activated 5.3 million iPhones, at least. If it were quarter-on-quarter, the number could be a bit smaller.

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What this means for Apple:

Verizon’s iPhone sales are by no means dismissible, but AT&T is still Apple’s bread and butter. The nation’s second-largest carrier is the biggest iPhone seller, projected to have sold around 8 million iPhones in the holiday quarter. Furthermore, whether iPhone sales are growing considerably at Verizon is of less importance than whether iPhone sales are growing overall, which they undeniably are, as evidenced by recent reports that Apple’s iOS finally overtook Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android as the most popular smartphone operating system in the U.S., with a 53.3 percent share, in the four months ending on November 25.

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