My Name Is iPhone, and I'm Here to Destroy You

Has the media gone loony? Seriously, I'm asking.

Here's why. When AT&T (NYSE: T  ) earlier reported that it activated 146,000 iPhone subscriptions in two days, many reporters cracked a smile and threw a stiff arm. For example, here's how Forbes put it: "So, there are 146,000 iPhone subscribers? Please AT&T, let us know when you have something interesting to report."

You're kidding, right? Yeah, good one. Oh, wait. You're not kidding. Really?!?

Look, even if 146,000 subscribers isn't a lot by iPhone standards -- some estimates were for 700,000 phones sold during the opening weekend -- most of that took place over just 30 hours. (AT&T and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) opened at 6 p.m. on June 29 to begin sales.) That's 4,867 phones activated per hour.

But that's not even the best part. Actually, I find it hard to believe that no one else is making a bigger deal out of this. AT&T also reports that 40% (!) of its iPhone activations came from new customers.

Hello? Is anyone there? That's an outrageous number, especially when you consider that, not even three months ago, surveys ranked carrier switching issues as the second-greatest barrier to adoption of the iPhone. (Price was first.)

But then June rolled around, and, as fellow Fool Dave Mock reported here, AT&T discovered that -- surprise! -- 40% of those who registered an interest in the iPhone weren't yet users of its wireless service, a finding that was consistent with April research from M:Metrics.

See the pattern? We've long suspected that some consumers would dump the likes of Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) to get an iPhone. Now we know they will. Why isn't this bigger news?

Maybe because it's early in the process. Here's how Dave put it to me in an e-mail earlier today:

Obviously, a small contingent of consumers is willing to shell out the [dollars] to have [an iPhone] now, but how does that translate down the line to the next 100,000 people, and the next? Price cuts factor in there dramatically, as does overall ease of use of the product and features.

I agree, though I'd also add competition. Taiwan's HTC already has a touch-screen phone. And we don't yet know what Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , Nokia (Nasdaq: NOK  ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) have in mind. I doubt any of them will create an iPhone killer, but they're all innovative enough to cause Apple problems.

Of course, that's the future. In the here and now, the iPhone's early returns are anything but a snoozer. Wake up, everyone!

Brrrrrrring! It's related Foolishness calling:

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Nokia at the time of publication. Find Tim's portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy goes down smooth like a grande non-fat mocchachino.


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