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Eric Zeman
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iPhone 4 Launch: 1.5M Sold, 77% To Upgraders

Apple has not yet released official iPhone 4 sales figures, but analysts guess that most of the approximate 1.5 million iPhones sold opening weekend are going to previous iPhone owners.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster believes that Apple will sell between 1 and 1.5 million iPhone 4s the first three days it is available. You can be sure that Apple will issue a press release the moment official sales surpass 1 million, as it has with just about every other product to reach that landmark. Munster wrote, "The actual number is largely irrelevant. Apple is tapping into the global consumer spending sweet spot, mobile, and as a result iPhone numbers are going higher in the coming years."

Munster also said, after polling some 608 people waiting in line at Apple stores Thursday in Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco, that 77% of iPhone 4 buyers previously owned an Apple iPhone. That falls in line with what I witnessed yesterday standing in line for an iPhone 4. Most of the people standing near me were using iPhones while waiting in line. I saw few devices made by other phone makers.

This shouldn't be too surprising, given AT&T's generous upgrade policy regarding the iPhone 4. It is allowing a large percentage of previous iPhone owners and other customers to upgrade at the discounted $199/$299 price points. That's greasing the demand, for sure.

"Apple is effectively building a recurring revenue stream from a growing base of iPhone users that upgrade to the newest version every year or two," Munster wrote in a report. "Apple is enjoying brand loyalty not enjoyed by other mobile phone makers."

Munster culled more data during his poll. He found that 16% of people waiting in line were switching to AT&T from another carrier. That is down a lot from last year's number of switchers, which was 28%. Of the line waiters, 6% were ditching their BlackBerry, and 3% were ditching their Android (Come to think of it, the guy behind me was using a Google Nexus One.).

Another interesting tidbit discovered by Munster showed that 28% of the pollees already owned an iPad, 39% said they'd probably buy one in the next year, and 65% already own Apple computers. Brand loyalty, indeed.

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