iPhone 3GS will be closer to 1 million sales over the weekend

With Apple’s iPhone 3G S hitting stores on Friday analysts are starting to guess how many units will be sold over the weekend. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is guessing Apple will sell 500,000 iPhone 3G S units over the weekend, that’s half of what the iPhone 3G did over three days last year.

In a research note (Techmeme), Munster wrote:

Apple will begin selling the new iPhone 3G S in 8 countries. We expect Apple to sell 500k iPhone 3G S units over the weekend. This would compare to 1m iPhone 3G units in the launch weekend last year, and 270k units in the original iPhone launch weekend. Several factors lead us to believe Apple will sell less iPhone 3G S’s at launch than it did for the iPhone 3G including a less dramatic change in value proposition and fewer available countries at launch.

Here’s Munster’s launch comparisons:
Here’s why Munster is expecting less drama:

* The iPhone 3G S will run you $199 just like it’s predecessor. The 3G launch introduced a better phone at half the price of the previous model.
* The iPhone 3G launched in 21 countries compared to the 8 that will feature the 3G S.

Munster’s forecast is a bit lower than other prognostications. RBC estimates Apple ships 500,000 to 700,000 iPhone 3G S units the first weekend.

In other words, the iPhone 3G S ramp will be slower that its predecessor, but still deliver sales as more countries are rolled out. And relative to the Pre launch the Apple iPhone 3G S should win the unit wars easily.

So how about you, what is your prediction? I think the App Store is great, but an original iPhone all the way through the 3GS can use it. Another factor is that some people might give or sell their iPhone, to get the 3GS, but I could easily give mine away to someone and sort of prevent a sale of the new one to those people. I'm not going to, however, but some will. I think half a million is too low, but not far off the mark.

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