Verizon: 2.2 million iPhone 4s activated during March quarter

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Verizon says it activated 2.2 million iPhone 4s during its first quarter, marking a strong debut for Apple’s smartphone as it expanded its reach to a second carrier in the U.S.

Verizon’s announcement came Thursday, as part of its quarterly earnings report. The iPhone 4 helped contribute to strong growth in revenues and customers for Verizon’s wireless business. Overall the company saw its net income jump to $1.44 billion, up from $443 million in the year ago quarter. Verizon reported $26.99 billion in revenue, a modest 0.3 percent gain from last year’s figure.

A CDMA-based version of the iPhone 4 compatible with Verizon’s network went on sale February 10. With Verizon’s quarter ending March 31, that means the carrier racked up those 2.2 million activations in seven weeks. Verizon says the iPhone 4 produced the most successful first-day sales in the history of its wireless business.

Compare that figure to AT&T’s iPhone activations during the March quarter. On Wednesday, AT&T said it activated 3.6 million iPhones during the first three months of 2011. While that’s more than what Verizon reported Thursday, keep in mind that AT&T was able to sell both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS for the entire quarter.

Of the iPhones activated by Verizon, the company said that 22 percent of those activations came from new Verizon customers. It also reported that 48 percent of iPhone upgrades were by customers new to the smartphone category.

Neither Apple nor Verizon had revealed any figures about the CDMA-based iPhone 4 launch, so Thursday’s announcement was significant—particularly in light of reports back in February of underwhelming sales. That’s certainly not the case now—in its quarterly earnings report, Apple said the U.S. segment of its iPhone business grew 155 percent over last year’s quarter.

Verizon may have also inadvertently revealed some future iPhone plans on Thursday. The Associated Press reports that Verizon chief financial officer Fran Shammo told analysts during a quarter earnings call that Verizon’s next iPhone would be a “global” version that works on wireless networks outside the U.S. (Few wireless networks outside of the U.S. use the CDMA standard.) According to the AP, Shammo implied his company would be on an “equal footing” with AT&T later this year. The Verizon executive declined to comment further in a later interview, the AP reports.

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