AT&T Didn’t Sell More iPhones than Verizon

CNN’s “In iPhone Battle, AT&T still outsells Verizon” headline isn’t true.

AT&T has been selling the iPhone since 2007. Nearly all of them have been sold to people through two-year contracts. When those contracts are up, people usually resell their iPhones or just give them to someone else. (I, for example, bought my iPhone 3GS from a friend when he upgraded to the iPhone 4 last summer, and my neighbor was given his dad’s iPhone when he bought an iPhone 4.) AT&T counts those in its activation numbers even though they aren’t new sales. Each activation doesn’t equate to new iPhone being sold. Thus, AT&T’s numbers are artificially inflated. 

But that’s not the case for Verizon. It’s only been selling the iPhone for 5 months. Nobody’s reselling their iPhone to get a new one or because their two-year contract is up. In Verizon’s case, device activations do equate to a new iPhone sold. Its numbers aren’t artificially inflated.

So even though AT&T activated 50% more iPhones than Verizon did last quarter, I bet Verizon actually sold more.