iPhone 4 Is The Most Popular Phone…With Mobile Operators


Time (NYSE: TWX) and again, we hear of tensions between Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and mobile operators unhappy with how the Cupertino giant, by way of iTunes, has muscled in on user relationships, reducing the opportunities for operators to make money out of mobile data usage. But at the end of the day, it turns out that operators today love the iPhone more than any other device.

According to the latest stats from Strategy Analytics, mobile operators are giving more shelf space to the iPhone 4 than any other smartphone. This is the first time that the iPhone has come out at the top, say the researchers, and it does so at the expense of the BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 from RIM: the Bold had held that spot since Q2 2010. That device is now in sixth place, behind the iPhone 4, along with models from Samsung and what SA calls a “rejuvenated” Nokia (NYSE: NOK) (yes, we raised our eyebrows at that, too).

Barring regional variations — in which, for example, HTC doesn’t even crack the top-10 in North America, which is still dominated by RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) — the overall top-10 looks like this:

SA’s numbers come from their quarterly SpecTRAX report, which crunches data from 140 mobile operators worldwide. Within that, some 68 have included the iPhone 4 in their product offerings.

What to make of these rankings? It’s important to remember that these numbers have to do with how many carriers are stocking the devices, not how well they are selling — although having more iPhone 4 offers than those for, say, the latest HTC device, will give the Apple product a big boost when it comes to actual sales.

But why are there so many iPhones? Retailers often give consumers both high-end and low-end options so that they opt for the (keenly priced) mid-range products, and the iPhone, which is premium-priced and undeniably attractive, is a great mannequin to get people in the door.

Of course, Apple, too, could be getting ready to launch a new edition of the iPhone this year, so moving iPhone 4 stock with good offers is another possibility for why we are seeing more iPhone 4 devices for sale.

Strategy Analytics notes that “carriers are giving preference to style over substance” in their offerings, with devices like the 16BG iPhone 4 being more popular than the 32GB version.

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