You want an iPhone 4S, you really, really want one!—that’s the narrative emerging after reports a record one million people preordered Apple’s upcoming four-and-a-half-gen iPhone in just 24 hours. The prior record-holder, the iPhone 4, managed an impressive 600,000 day-one preorders back in June 2010.
iPhone 4S preorders went live last Friday and more or less put the lie to critical claims the 4S wouldn’t appeal to buyers anticipating a fifth-generation iPhone, or at least one with more intrepid outward design changes. The 4S is identical to the iPhone 4 externally, and all the new features—the 8 megapixel camera, the faster A5 processor, the A5-exclusive voice recognition tool dubbed “Siri”—lie under the hood.
The new iPhone’s also no less expensive. If you’re just signing up, you can grab the low-end 16GB model for $200 with a multi-year contract, but the new 64GB option will set you back $400, and heaven forbid you try to pick one up if you’re already under contract: You’ll pay $649 (16GB), $749 (32GB) or $849 (64GB) to grab one absent a promotional or contract-based discount. Note that for less than $200 dollars more than the latter, you could pick up a 64GB 11-inch MacBook Air.
Apple’s (company) record one-million-in-a-day preorders probably has more to do with carrier heavyweight Sprint joining the pack (and the additional countries carrying the new iPhone) than anything, though two additional contributing factors—AT&T launch-timeframe iPhone 4 customers with maturing phone upgrade options or Verizon customers who skipped the iPhone 4 launch in February based on rumors the iPhone 5 was just around corner—can’t be ruled out.
In fact Sprint claims it’s already sold out of its 16GB iPhone 4S, though its 32GB and 64GB versions are still available. The iPhone 4S officially goes on sale this coming Friday, October 14, but the carriers are saying most customers won’t receive the new phones for up to several weeks. Think of it as comparable to the way airlines overbook flights—maybe you’ll get your seat, maybe you’ll have to wait.
I’m much more skeptical that Steve Jobs’ death has anything to do with the sales surge. A marketing professor with San Diego State University tells Reuters it’s “no different than when John Lennon was assassinated, sales of Beatles records shot up for a little while,” but I’m not buying it. Records are cheap, and music—a fine art—goes hand-in-glove with mourning. When Michael Jackson died, I resurrected a few of his albums, but I’ve never made a technology-based sympathy purchase in my life (and certainly not a high-price one), nor known anyone who’d sign up for multiple years of monthly smartphone payments just because they felt bad about someone’s passing (however iconic that someone).
Whatever the case, analysts predict the iPhone 4S is going to smash sales records across the board. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky says Apple could sell around three million units its opening weekend (versus 1.7 million for the iPhone 4 during its first three days). And Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple could now surpass his prediction of 25 million units sold between October and December this year, well up from iPhone sales just north of 14 million between June and September 2010.