Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

iPhone sales in the AT&T era

January 13, 2011: 7:01 AM ET

Analysts estimate that Apple may have sold as many as 90 million between 2007 and 2010

Source: Company reports and Q1 consensus estimate

Next week, when Apple (AAPL) releases its earnings for the quarter that ended Christmas Day, it will be closing the books on the era of AT&T (T) exclusivity in the U.S. -- the company's largest single market for iPhones.

It was an extraordinary run, despite all the jokes about dropped calls and flaky service. Since Apple launched its touchscreen smartphone on June 24, 2007, iPhone sales have become the single largest contributor to its bottom line, accounting for 38.6% of the company's revenue in 2010. As of September, Apple had sold a total of 73.7 million iPhones worldwide, generating $45.6 billion in revenue.

Estimates for how many it sold last quarter are, as usual, all over the lot. Among the 33 analysts we polled, predictions ranged from a low of 14 million (from Morgan Keegan's Travis McCourt) to a high of 18.35 million (from blogger Dennis Hildebrand of Apple's Gold). The average of all the estimates  -- 15.78 million -- would bring worldwide iPhone sales in the pre-Verizon (VZ) era to more than 89.6 million.

Below the fold: The Q1 2011 iPhone unit sales estimates we've gathered so far. We'll find out who was closest to the mark after the closing bell Jan. 18.

Included, where available, are the analysts' ranking in the so-called Deagol scale -- a measure of how closely their estimates matched results over the previous three quarters as compiled by an amateur Venezuelan analyst with one of the best track records in the business. His real name is Daniel Tello and he posts his numbers at Deagol's AAPL Model.

Analyst, Affiliation Units (millions) Date of est. Deagol rank
Dennis Hildebrand, Apple's Gold 18.35 12/28/10 25
Rajesh Ghai, Think Equity 17.00 11/29/10 35
Mark Beauch, Apple Finance Board 16.90 12/27/10 NA
Jeff Fosberg, Apple Finance Board 16.80 12/29/10 13
Nicolae Mihalache, Traderhood 16.75 12/30/10 30
Robert Paul Leitao, Apple Finance Board 16.75 1/2/11 11
Alexis Cabot, Apple Finance Board 16.72 12/23/10 8
Daniel Tello, Deagol's AAPL Model 16.52 12/23/10 3
Brian While, Ticonderoga 16.22 1/4/11 NA
Matthew Hoffman, Cowen & Co. 16.20 12/16/10 33
Patrick Smellie, Apple Finance Board 16.16 12/29/10 24
Horace Dediu, Asymco 16.16 12/29/10 1
T. Michael Walkley, Canaccord Genuity 16.10 1/4/11 31
Brian Marshall, Gleacher & Co. 16.00 12/29/10 27
Shaw Wu, Kaufman Bros. 16.00 12/16/10 34
Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank 16.00 1/3/11 14
Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley 16.00 12/29/10 29
Richard Gardner, Citigroup 16.00 12/2/10 21
Nehal Chokshi, Technology Insights 15.73 1/4/11 10
Turley Muller, Financial Alchemist 15.70 12/29/10 4
William Power, Baird 15.20 11/4/10 NA
Maynard Um, UBS 15.60 12/28/10 20
Scott Craig, Merrill Lynch 15.10 12/9/10 22
Jeff Fidacaro, Susquehanna 15.10 11/29/10 17
Yair Reiner, Oppenheimer 15.00 1/3/11 9
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray 15.00 11/29/10 28
Charlie Wolf, Needham 15.00 10/19/10 NA
Hendi Susanto, Gabelli & Co. 14.90 12/17/10 NA
Bill Shope, Goldman Sachs 14.87 12/12/10 19
Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital 14.80 11/9/10 18
Doug Reid, Stifel Nicholaus 14.24 12/30/10 23
Daniel Ernst, Hudson Square 14.00 12/29/10 40
Tavis McCourt, Morgan Keegan 14.00 12/30/10 36

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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