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Number port stats suggest curious trends in iPhone 3G launch

Chris Ziegler
Sure, Apple alleges to have flipped over a million iPhone 3Gs at this point, but what does that mean? The devil's in the details, as always; yes, true, the first one took 74 days to reach that same milestone, but it was available in less than one-twentieth the number of countries and an even smaller fraction of carriers. Hell, the very definition of "sale" is under scrutiny here, with some suggesting that Apple's making reference to the number of phones it's sold to its carrier partners, not end users -- a metric that would make sense from Cupertino's perspective since Apple's payday technically ends there.

Here's where it gets interesting -- Engadget has obtained a handful of stats regarding number ports in and out of T-Mobile USA handled by a national wholesaler. Specifically, we have data surrounding the launch of the first-gen iPhone and the iPhone 3G, and get this: of more than 1,000 ports in total, ports to AT&T represented under 40 percent of the firm's total outflow in the days surrounding the 3G's launch, versus nearly 70 percent the last time around. Furthermore, they took roughly the same number of inbound ports from AT&T during the same period, meaning that T-Mobile effectively lost no net ground due to the 3G's launch. Granted, the porting stats from a single wholesaler represent just a microcosm of the big picture, but even accounting for some loss of precision when you extrapolate that data, you're looking at a pretty significant downturn in interest from T-Mobile subscribers. We still think Apple's probably laughing all the way to the bank either way -- and iPhone 3Gs are sold out virtually everywhere right now -- but you've got to wonder if AT&T's not freaking out a little bit at the number of new subscribers it managed to entice, and whether its competitors are all breathing cautious sighs of relief at some surprisingly reasonably churn rates.