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Riddle of missing iPhones solved

When Steve Jobs said that it had sold nearly four million iPhones at the end of last year, a number of analysts and observers baulked at the number, which is much higher than their estimates.

This started a frenzied search for the missing million iPhones globally; around 200,000 iPhones have been sold in the UK with a further 140,000 iPhones sold in France and in Germany.

ATT remains by far Apple's biggest mobile partners with around 2 million iPhone (opens in new tab) users.

Even when substracting the 480,000 units that are believed to be in limbo, as channel inventory, this still leaves nearly million iPhone units unaccounted for; that's three in every ten iPhone sold.

This discrepancy, a report issued by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, might be caused by thousands of dealers who have purchased more than one iPhone and have either successfully unlocked the phone or are yet to connect it to an authorised network.

And there are also the thousands of people who have received iPhones for Christmas, more than four weeks ago, and who have yet to connect them to a network.

Funnily enough, Gene Munster (opens in new tab) of Piper Jaffray, said that the company dispatched spies to monitor Apple stores in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis and found out that small busses of Asian people were buying more than one iPhone at a time.

While this doesn't bode well for Apple's long term revenue - the company was expecting to get $720 per year from a two year contract agreement, one has to wonder how many grey market dealers are sitting with large inventories of unlocked but unsold iPhones.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.