"Hummer of Cellphones" a Bestseller at AT&T

Published on September 8, 2009
by John Paczkowski

jumbo-iphone1Apple’s iPhone continues to be AT&T’s marquee handset, though the data-guzzling “Hummer of cellphones,” as the New York Times has dubbed it, has inspired widespread customer dissatisfaction with the carrier’s network. Indeed, according to Piper Jaffray, the iPhone 3G and 3GS are AT&T’s (T) top-selling phones.

“Based on our channel checks, the iPhone remains the best selling device at AT&T with both the new $200/$300 iPhone 3GS and $100 legacy iPhone selling very well,” Piper Jaffary analyst Gene Munster said in a research note today.

“In July, our checks had indicated store managers were strongly recommending the legacy iPhone,” Munster notes, “as we believe this was partially driven by store representatives hoping to make the sale with the 3GS stocked out combined with efforts to reduce existing inventory levels of the legacy iPhone. However, in August, our checks indicate store managers are increasingly recommending the 3GS, and we believe this is driven by improved availability of the 3GS at most AT&T stores.”

Munster summarizes: “Overall, the iPhone remains the best selling device and our August checks indicate the iPhone took share from BlackBerry, the Nokia E71x, and most other competitor products. Finally, in our checks at Best Buy, store managers indicated the iPhone was their best selling device with stores selling out of stock as soon as they received the Apple smartphones.”

A bullish assessment, with an even more bullish conclusion: Munster says he expects Apple (AAPL) to ship seven million iPhones in the quarter. If that’s truly the case, Apple should have no trouble beating Wall Street’s expectations for its current quarter despite the gloomy economy.

One last point worth noting here: Munster is not bullish on Apple’s event tomorrow. He describes it as a “non-event,” though he seems convinced Steve Jobs will host it. “We expect Steve Jobs to introduce a new iPod lineup with a new iPod touch, new nanos, and a new classic, with cameras in the new models,” he notes. “We expect the stock to trade off on a lack of surprising announcements.”

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