Is 4 million Verizon iPhone sales bad news for Apple?

April 18, 2013: 12:54 PM ET

Verizon activated 3.2 million iPhones in the same quarter last year.

Verizon sales up 25% year over year. Chart: Asymco

Verizon's iPhone sales are up 25% from last year. Chart: Asymco

FORTUNE --  Verizon (VZ) reported Thursday morning that it activated 7.2 million smartphones in the first quarter of 2013, 4 million of them iPhones.

There are several perfectly legitimate ways to interpret what those numbers mean for Apple (AAPL).

  • Good for Apple: 4 million iPhones is 25% better than the 3.2 million Verizon activated in the same quarter last year.
  • Good for Apple: 55.5% of the smartphones Verizon activated in Q1 2013 were iPhones, which is better than the 51% Verizon activated in Q1 2012.
  • Bad for Apple: Verizon reported that only half of those iPhones were the newest model (i.e., the iPhone 5), which is less than the 60/40 split some analysts were expecting. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster estimates that will  lower Apple's average iPhone selling price 4%.
  • Bad for Apple: In December, the first full quarter of iPhone 5 sales, Verizon activated 6 million iPhones (63% of its smartphones). The 33% quarter-to-quarter fall-off this year (from 6 million to 4 million) is a bigger than the quarter-to-quarter fall off last year (24%).

My colleagues at CNNMoney chose a different interpretation. They compared Apple's big Christmas quarter to its dependably smaller March quarter and ran this as their lead headline:

More bad news for Apple
Verizon iPhone sales tumble 33% in first three months

That, in my humble opinion, is just wrong. As Asymco's Horace Dediu points out, it treats the normal drop off from December to March as if it were breaking news. "It's the equivalent of writing a headline 'Fire is cold,'" he suggests, "without adding 'compared to the surface of the Sun.'"

To his credit, CNNMoney's David Goldman mentions in the body of his story that "year-over-year, Verizon's iPhone activations grew by 25%." But that's not what his headline says.

  • Has Android's growth slowed down?

    After a stratospheric rise this summer, Google has been stuck at around 200,000 activations a day since early August.

    Update: (Dec. 8th) Well, it looks like Google's numbers aren't flat. They just waited a little while to report them.

    Google's (GOOG) Android has been on a tear lately, dominating growth in the smartphone market in just about every major survey.  But amongst the Gingerbread hoopla today, the number of Android activations has to be MORE

    - Dec 6, 2010 4:10 PM ET
  • Google is approaching a quarter million Android activations/day

    ...and Honeycomb and Gingerbread are two different Android OS forks, one for tablets and one for smartphones.

    In an excellent story on the Android Invasion, Newsweek's Dan Lyons get's some new activation numbers from Android Chief, Andy Rubin. Rubin says that Google has recently passed the 250,000 activations/day mark, though only once, yet the numbers continue to rise overall.

    That rate is 1 million every four days, just under 8 million a MORE

    - Oct 4, 2010 4:56 PM ET
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