According to a new report issued by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, one million iPhones of the 3.75 million sold have been unlocked to run on non-official networks.
A debate over Apple’s sales figures has raged this past week after it was revealed that AT&T had only activated 2 million iPhones, and only 315,000 iPhones had been purchased in Europe, leaving a gap of 1.435 million. Some earlier reports suggested that the majority of the missing iPhones may be sitting on shelves, but this new report puts a completely different light on the figures.
According to The Register, unlocked phones “represent a significant drag on the profitability of the device” with Apple “receiving $300 to $400 in carrier payments for each iPhone sold, they generate 50 per cent less revenue and up to 75 per cent less profit than normal. The 1m phones translates into as much as $400m in lost revenue.”
In perspective, the figure is small in comparison to the earlier report this week of PirateBay having over 10 million users, and yet unlocking an iPhone isn’t as easy as downloading a pirated movie or album. It’s also not illegal, at least in most countries. That one million people would rage against the machine and unlock iPhones is a beautiful figure that must surely go some way towards proving that locked devices and standards are a flawed idea. We’ve seen DRM defeated as the music industry realized that consumers want open, flexible standards. Mobile phone operators are the next in line in the domino affect of open that is now sweeping all corners of technology. Apple is expected to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, and on this basis that would mean slightly over 2.5 million unlocked iPhones. Steve Jobs long argued against DRM, so lets see whether he will eventually concede that an open iPhone is a smart idea as well later in the year, and even if he doesn’t, people will still keep unlocking iPhones. Now if only I could find a way to upgrade from 1.0.2 to 1.1.3 and keep my iPhone working in Australia :-)