Apple’s iPhone to make up more than half of Q4 smartphone sales across top-3 U.S. carriers

In the third quarter of 2011, Apple offered just two smartphones: the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS. The latter was sold by just one carrier in the United States while the former was sold by two of the four major wireless carriers. Despite a rare miss in the third quarter that saw iPhone sales come in well below analysts’ expectations, and despite increasing competition and volume from Apple’s competitors, the company sold almost half as many iPhones as all other smartphones sold by Verizon Wireless and AT&T combined. Read on for more.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T each reported their earnings earlier this month for the third quarter, and business was good. Verizon Wireless beat the Street with revenue of $27.91 billion, and AT&T passed the 100 million-subscriber mark for the first time. Smartphones played a huge role in each carrier’s business, of course, and smartphones sales for the quarter totaled 5.6 million units at Verizon Wireless and 4.8 million units at AT&T.

Of the 5.6 million smartphones Verizon Wireless sold last quarter, 2 million were iPhones. At AT&T, 2.7 million iPhones were sold out of a total of 4.8 million smartphones. Combined, Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS made up just over 45% of all smartphones sold by the nation’s top two carriers… and this was in a bad quarter.

In the fourth quarter this year, multiple iPhone models will be sold by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint. Prices will range from free to $399 on contract, with a $99 iPhone 4 available across all three carriers alongside Apple’s new model, the iPhone 4S. Analysts are already going crazy with their estimates but even if Apple doesn’t have the blow-out quarter many expect, the iPhone will still likely account for more than half of all smartphones sold in the U.S. this holiday quarter.

With the iPhone 4S alone having sold more than 4 million units during its first weekend of availability in just seven markets, Apple is off to a great start. Sprint said on October 14th that the iPhone launch gave the carrier its “best ever day of sales,” and AT&T confirmed that it activated more than 1 million iPhone 4S handsets during the phone’s first week of availability. Not bad for a “disappointment.”

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