One million iPhone 3Gs sold? Not yet, says analyst

Apple confidently claimed this week it had already sold one million 3G iPhones. But if that's true, the buyer was AT&T, according to one analyst who predicts it will take another two weeks for end customers to have bought that many.

Apple's been criticized in the past for using sales to channel partners such as AT&T in sales reports. But in light of the activation disasters surrounding the 3G device, maybe it will take longer than usual for Apple's numbers to mesh with reality.

Despite a press release from Apple this week pronouncing sales of the phone at 1 million already, Gene Munster, a financial analyst at Piper Jaffray, has determined the actual amount of 3G iPhones sold as of Monday to measure less than 500,000.

From calls Munster placed to US stores last Friday, he figured out how many new phones were being activated each hour. From there, the analyst projected that 425,000 iPhones would have been sold over the weekend, and that sales to end users wouldn't hit the 1 million mark for another 17 days.

Even supposing the activation process for the 3G iPhone had been smoother last week than it actually was, Apple's press release does seem overly optimistic.

Meanwhile, previous press releases from Apple about other products and services have also reflected some interesting math. In April and again in June, for example, Apple announced that its iTunes music store has surpassed Wal-Mart in music sales, each time using only old survey results from the NPD Group's MusicWatch survey for January and February as the basis for those contentions.

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