iPhone 3G S Launch Comparatively Tepid

Smaller lines and less fuss than earlier launches characterized the debut of the iPhone 3G S on Friday. The sales process was by all accounts smooth, with no round-the-block lines and only a few reports of sell-outs, unlike the iPhone launches in 2007 and 2008, where camping out and a palpable euphoria were the norm.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts that Apple Inc. will sell only 500,000 units over the weekend, about half of what the iPhone 3G sold during launch weekend last year.

The LA Times conjectures that fewer people in line and the feeling of less rabid excitement for the iPhone 3G S launch could be the result of online pre-ordering, something enabled by Apple for the first time with this release.

“We actually have hundreds of thousands of customers that have pre-ordered their iPhone,” AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega told CNBC.

Tina Teng, an researcher with iSuppli Corp. said it could also be that fewer people in this recessionary year are willing to take on the cost of the data service plan.

And some reviewers have said the 3G S simply doesn’t add enough new features to make the upgrade a “have to have.” For instance, Troy Wolverton, a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News, said the device suffers from not allowing multiple programs to run at the same time. “And in terms of user interface — the way a consumer interacts with a device — the iPhone has surrendered the lead to Palm’s new Pre,” he opined.

But despite this, the launch will be a success and Apple could gain a coveted 10 percent smartphone market share thanks to the upgrade, said Teng. She noted that Apple will likely sell 18.7 million iPhones in 2009, reaching a 10 percent market share of the smartphone segment. Last year, Apple sold 13.7 million iPhones for an 8.4 percent market share.

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