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The HTC ThunderBolt is reportedly outselling Apple’s iPhone 4 (s aapl) in some Verizon (s vz) 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (s goog) 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.