iPhone Sales: Now Bigger Than Ever

iphoneIt’s a great time to be a phone buyer, for we are seeing a whole new crop of what The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg calls super smartphones (I prefer the simpler “superphones”) come to the market. Motorola’s CLIQ, an Android-based device that launched at our Mobilize 09 conference, is just the latest device to make its market debut. I will eventually get around to my review, but the handset is solid and MotoBlur is a refreshing take on the mobile web.There are several more handsets powered by Google’s Android OS that will be released in coming months. And despite all that, Apple’s iPhone is unstoppable. Here’s why:

Our favorite technology analyst, Ashok Kumar, in a note to his clients this morning points out that shipments of the iPhone in September exceeded Wall Street estimates of 7 million units by 25-30 percent. According to Kumar, the iPhone now accounts for 15 percent of the smartphone segment.

What’s going on? I have a wild theory: The $99 iPhone is proving to be a monster hit. By offering its older 3G model for $99 with a 2-year plan, what Apple has done is essentially make that the bare minimum price for a great superphone. It has and it will constantly force its rivals to lower prices on their handsets, to a point where they are almost entirely dependent on the carrier’s largesse to eat the costs. So far none of those devices have displayed iPhone-like magnetism.

With Apple opting for polygamy in its choice of iPhone carriers, the company has a chance to increase its market share even further. With China and India as new market opportunities for lower-cost versions of the iPhone, Apple could become a dominant superphone market force. The thriving App Store is going to continue to be an advantage that Apple has over its rivals.

In related news: During the third quarter, Mac sales grew 11.8 percent over the same period in 2008, to 1.64 million.