"Missing" non-AT&T iPhones cost Apple $300+ million


I’m a little skeptical regarding these numbers but some fancy-pants financial types are estimating a $300-$500 million loss in revenue due to unlocked, non-AT&T iPhone sales. This presumes there are about 1 million units out there unlocked and unaccounted for, something I find hard to believe.

If Apple were to somehow stop the sale of unlocked iPhones (by forcing customers to activate them at the point of purchase, say) the company might miss its target of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008 — and forgo even more revenue and profit.

But if Apple does nothing, it gets hit with a double whammy. Not only are its healthy gross margins reduced (unlocked iPhones generate 50% less revenue for Apple and 70-75% less profit, according to Sacconaghi), but growing new markets overseas gets harder. If the company can’t stop the flow of unlocked iPhones into a country like China, what’s the incentive for a Chinese carrier to pay the stiff premium Apple demands for the right to be that country’s exclusive carrier?

The only real way to figure this out is to check out AnySIM and iPhoneSIMFree download stats, which I don’t believe are quite as public or accurate as they could be. In fact, 9to5mac estimated 250,000 last October and given even a brisk pace wouldn’t be even close to a million right now. It’s not FUD, per se, but it does effect the financial markets for these analysts to make these claims resulting in some ridiculous stock drops and rises.

Apple’s $300 million gray market dilemma [Apple2.0]