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iPhone 4s remains Apple's "little engine that could"

iphone lineup

The iPhone 4s remains Apple's little engine that could. Released over two-and-a-half years ago, the iPhone that introduced Siri to the world remains, believe it or not, an important part of Apple's iPhone lineup.

AppleInsider yesterday got ahold of a recent research report from analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company which found that iPhone 4s sales are higher than one might initially assume. Note that Apple doesn't break down iPhone sales figures by model type, so the Wolf's conclusion is based entirely off of his company's own research.

Wolf estimates that the iPhone 5s accounted for 71 percent of March quarter sales, while the iPhone 5c took just 4 percent. That means the iPhone 4S would have taken the remaining 25 percent of sales for the three-month span.

Wolf's research is bolstered by remarks made by Tim Cook during Apple's most recent earnings conference call. In explaining why the average selling price of the iPhone dropped by $41 during the quarter gone by, Cook pointed to strong iPhone 4s sales, particularly in China.

In some markets, Cook said that the iPhone 4s is responsible for upwards of 80% of new subscribers.

"It gets them into the ecosystem," Cook added. "Our ability to keep customers is very good."

Indeed, Apple's ability to limit subscriber churn is one of the reasons the company continues to command relatively high premiums for its products from carriers. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse even said so himself two years ago.

Subsidises are heavy for the iPhone. This is the reason why a high percentage of new customers is important. But iPhone customers have a lower level of churn and they actually use less data on average than a high-end 4G Android device. So from a cost point of view and a customer lifetime value perspective. They're more profitable than the average smartphone customer.

All in all, Apple's iPhone lineup has never been healthier. While the iPhone 5c may not have sold as well as Apple was initially projecting, stronger than expected sales of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 4s have more than picked up the slack. During Apple's most recent quarter, the company posted 43.7 million iPhone unit sales, far eclipsing Wall Street estimates. Of that figure, Wolf believes that the iPhone 4s accounted for 10 million units.

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