Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said it had a blockbuster opening sales day with its HTC Evo 4G smartphone, which broke the one-day sales record previously held by the Samsung Instinct and Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) Pre. According to Sprint, the number of Evo devices the carrier sold on Friday was three times the number of Instinct and Pre units sold over their first three days on the market combined.
Though Sprint did not disclose the actual sales figure, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk estimated Sprint sold at least 250,000 Evos over the weekend, but noted "it would also be reasonable to speculate that sales could have topped 300,000 this weekend given the pre-ordering appointments that extended throughout the weekend." David Dixon, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, was more bullish, predicting the carrier sold 320,000 units, gaining 100,000 new customers and 220,000 upgrades.
Customer interest appeared to take its toll on Sprint's systems. In a statement, the carrier said some stores--including Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal-Mart--were not able to keep up with the demand. Sprint spokeswoman Michelle Leff Mermelstein told FierceWireless the carrier saw higher-than-normal wait times for activations due to high volumes.
"Our servers were slowed down but we worked hard to make the customer experience a positive one," in some cases writing activation orders up by hand, she said. "Think of this like calling the airlines during a snowstorm or tropical weather incident where everyone is flooding the call centers at once--call volumes and wait times were longer than we would like to see but we worked hard to process every activation as quickly as possible." AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has recorded similar problems in the past with iPhone launches.
Regarding inventory shortages, Mermelstein said Sprint is "bringing more devices into stores on a regular basis with many stores actually getting daily shipments." She described the shortages as a "temporary situation," and explained that the carrier is working with HTC to ease the inventory constraints as soon as possible.
Shortages of high-end HTC phones are turning into a trend, it seems; Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is having trouble keeping up with demand for the HTC Droid Incredible.
Sprint is banking on the Evo to turn into a solid hit as well as serve as a showcase for Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network as it looks to win back postpaid subscribers. The phone costs $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate for a new line or eligible upgrade.
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