Orange sells 30,000 iPhones in five days

French mobile phone operator Orange sold 30,000 iPhones in the five days following its Nov. 29 launch, the company said Wednesday.

In comparison, German operator T-Mobile said it sold 10,000 on Nov. 9, the day the phone went on sale there. Apple’s U.K. partner O2 said the phone is its fastest-selling ever, but refused to give sales figures.

Some 80 percent of Orange customers bought the iPhone with an “Orange for iPhone” service contract that includes unlimited access to the Internet and the Visual Voicemail service.

Those customers paid €399 (US$585) for their iPhone, the same price T-Mobile charges for its iPhones.

Orange also offers the iPhone for €549 with other types of contract, or €649 without a contract.

About 1,500 were sold without a contract, said Orange spokesman Louis Michel Aymard.

Customers buying an iPhone from Orange for use on another operator’s network must pay a €100 unlocking charge, which is waived if they wait for six months from the purchase date. Since an iPhone without a contract is of little use on Orange’s network, the majority of those 1,500 customers have probably unlocked their phones, Aymard said.

Orange is now the only one of Apple’s network operator partners to sell the iPhone unlocked. It does so to comply with a French law that forbids making the sale of one item conditional on the sale of another.

T-Mobile briefly offered unlocked iPhones for €999 to comply with a temporary court injunction. It had been sued by rival operator Vodafone, which claimed that selling the phone tied to a two-year contract breached Germany’s consumer protection laws. On Tuesday, a court in Hamburg rejected Vodafone’s complaint, giving T-Mobile the go-ahead to sell the phone bundled with a contract.

Early sales of the iPhone in Europe are dwarfed by its success in the U.S., where Apple and operator partner AT&T sold 270,000 on the first weekend. The U.S. population is almost four times that of Germany, and around five times that of France.

Apple said it took 74 days to sell the first million iPhones following its U.S. launch — a milestone that it took the iPod two years to reach. But sales of mobile phones far outstrip those of digital audio players like the iPod: Last year, almost 1 billion mobile phones were sold worldwide, 164 million of them in North America and 175 million of them in Western Europe, according to market analyst Gartner.

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