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Summary:

The HTC ThunderBolt is reportedly outselling Apple’s iPhone 4 in some Verizon locations if one analyst firm is correct. At first blush, this sounds unlikely, but there are at least four reasons why the report is believable, ranging from mobile broadband to screen size.

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The HTC ThunderBolt is reportedly outselling Apple’s iPhone 4 in some Verizon locations, if one analyst firm is correct. BGR shares the information from BTIG Research, which has called more than 150 Verizon stores to gather sales data. Nearly two-thirds of the stores indicated sales are neck-and-neck between the two devices, while 28 percent reported the ThunderBolt is proving more popular than the iPhone. Without actual sales numbers from either Verizon or Apple, there’s no way to verify the analyst claims, but there are four logical reasons why they might be true:

  1. The next iPhone. While many Verizon customers waited more than 3.5 years to see an iPhone for their network of choice, it’s difficult to imagine that all who waited actually bought the Verizon iPhone when it came out. Why? Apple’s annual refresh cycle for the iPhone is nearly common knowledge to the masses and would be well-known to any Verizon customer who’s been waiting for a CDMA iPhone since June of 2007. There’s no guarantee this June will see the next iPhone — there are even rumors of a September release — but after waiting 3.5 years, it makes sense to wait a few more months in case Apple does follow the traditional iPhone refresh cycle with an updated model.
  2. 4G is a huge differentiator. The HTC ThunderBolt is the first, and currently, the only, 4G handset able to use Verizon’s speedy LTE mobile broadband network. Verizon’s iPhone is stuck on the older EVDO 3G network, and although many factors influence network speeds, a 3G Verizon iPhone surfs the web around 10 times slower than the HTC ThunderBolt in a 4G coverage area. Verizon is also pushing the LTE capabilities by offering 4G data for the ThunderBolt at the same monthly price as the 3G data plan used by the iPhone. And the operator is throwing in personal hotspot function for free until May 15 on the ThunderBolt.
  3. Apple Stores are missing from the equation. Here’s a fly in the ointment for those thinking the BTIG data can be applied to overall handset sales. You can’t assume that the ThunderBolt is selling better than the iPhone overall on Verizon’s network, because the data doesn’t include sales figures or estimates from Apple Stores. Again, without any hard sales data from Apple or Verizon, we don’t know how the newest iPhone is selling, but to assume all Verizon iPhones are sold in Verizon stores would be ludicrous.
  4. Bigger is better? This line of thought gets into the debate I had with Darrell Etherington last month. I still subscribe to the idea that consumers are intrigued by larger displays on smartphones which are still highly pocketable. Yes, the 960×640 resolution on the iPhone 4 is stellar, but the 800×480 resolution on the ThunderBolt’s 4.3-inch screen is quite nice and the keyboard is less cramped due to the extra room. Yet, the larger screen doesn’t boost the device size that much over the iPhone 4. Apple’s handset measures 4.5″ x 2.3″ x 0.4″, while the ThunderBolt comes in a 4.8″ x 2.6″ x 0.5″ in size.

Either way, the situation is a win-win for Verizon and its customers. Those who want a Verizon iPhone now have the option after years of making do with alternative handsets or carriers. And people who prefer Android and/or want to surf on Verizon’s LTE network can do so with the ThunderBolt. A truer comparison between the iPhone and competing Android handsets on Verizon starts with Apple’s next handset, especially if it has LTE capabilities, as several new Android phones are expected to have in the next few months. Until then — or until we see actual Verizon iPhone sales figures — the ThunderBolt appears to be having a good run against the iPhone, and for good reasons.

  1. 5) The Thunderbolt is NOT outselling the iPhone. That’s the simplest one. Besides Apple Stores, the iPhone 4 also gets sold online via Apple, as well as plenty of other stores: Best Buy, Rat Shack, etc. etc.

    When those iPhone sales figures get announced April 20th, BTIG will have their tail between their legs, or should, except they’ll be too busy coming up with another unverifiable phony survey to grab headlines with.

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    1. while I agree BGR is trash & only 1 step above TechCrunch. they are about as anti Android/Palm as any universal blog I’ve ever seen, they will at any cost suck up to Apple/RIM.

      maybe as Apple/RIM marketshare stall/decline this a new tactic to gain support from Android users. unfortunately for them Android users tend to be alot more savvy than other platforms & wont jump ship to a radical-read blog.

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  2. are these number being adjusted so that units are only counted at times when both phones are in stock and available. it is not unusual for the iphone to be sold out. it would not be fair to count thunderbolt sales that take place at store sold out of iphones.

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    1. It would be too obvious, wouldn’t it? Besides, doing a correct sample probably wouldn’t yield the headline that the Androis flavor of the week was somehow outselling iPhone.

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  3. I find this a little hard to believe. Verizon doesn’t even cover half my state and only has 4G coverage in one metro area. Maybe it is different in other states but I seriously doubt it.

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