updated 04:40 pm EDT, Wed March 18, 2009
comScore on Top Phones
Flagship, full touchscreen phones are the single largest sources of money for their respective US carriers, new data from comScore shows. In tracking sales through the companies' online websites, the research points to the iPhone as the top earner for AT&T in terms of sheer revenue and that similar effects are found for touch smartphones at most rivals. The BlackBerry Storm brings in the most for its exclusive host Verizon, while the Android-based G1 is T-Mobile's most rewarding device.
Unusually, the Samsung Instinct at Sprint is only that carrier's 7th-best device in terms of revenue. Why this is hasn't been made evident, though it's the one handset of the collection that doesn't use a true smartphone-level operating system and loses access to a large range of third-party software as a result. The Palm Pre is expected to fulfill that role when it launches in late spring.
These devices, however, typically have significantly lower rankings in terms of pure unit shipments. The iPhone is the 9th-best seller in numbers for AT&T and is slightly outperformed in relative terms by the G1 and Storm, both of which are the 8th-best for their respective carriers. Despite early claims of the Instinct being a fast-seller for Sprint on launch, it now has just 17th place among the company's devices.
The actual top devices for sheer market share are ultimately free phones, comScore says. On AT&T, the refurbished LG Shine is picked up for free 95 percent of the time. Verizon's generic VX8350 clamshell leads its units and is given for free 99 percent of the time, while T-Mobile always gives away the Motorola RIZR Z3 and Sprint hands away the LG Rumor for free to 86 percent of those that ask for it.
How many phones are sold for free varies widely by carrier. The two GSM-based carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, are the most likely to give phones for free with 75 percent and 61 percent respectively. Simultaneously, a far lower 54 percent of Sprint phones are free while just 48 percent of phones are given out for free at Verizon.
To the analysts, the differences mirror a conflict between carriers between the revenue from expensive devices like the iPhone, which often also have more lucrative data plans attached, and selling large volumes of basic devices. The split hints that many of the companies have pursued the most profitable path by centering their attention on singular, advanced hardware rather than counting on bulk.