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Steve Jobs: Apple sold over 1 million new iPhones

It's hard to know which is more significant: Apple's (aapl) announcement that it sold more than 1 million units of the new iPhone 3GS last weekend -- easily exceeding analysts' estimates  -- or the fact that the news was accompanied by a quote from CEO Steve Jobs, his first since Apple's Jan. 21 quarterly earnings results.

"Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning," said Jobs. "With over 50,000 applications available from Apple's revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever."

The same press release announced that six million copies of iPhone 3.0 were downloaded in the first five days after its release last Wednesday.

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Earlier Monday several analysts had released their estimates of the 3GS's weekend sales, including ...

  • Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster: 750,000 units (see here)
  • Kaufman Bros. Shaw Wu: 600,000
  • Oppenheimer's Yair Reiner: 400,000 - 500,000

Jobs, who usually gets the first quote in any Apple press release, had been noticeably absent in these releases since his medical leave began. His reappearance -- or at least the reappearance of words attributed to him -- two days after the
Wall Street Journal
reported that he was recovering from liver transplant surgery, may signal the first stage of his return to Apple, scheduled to occur before the end of June.

UPDATE: In an addendum to his Monday morning report to clients, Piper Jaffray's Munster notes that Apple's weekend sales not only exceeded both his initial prediction (500,000 units) and his adjusted estimate  (750,000), but they matched last years sales -- despite the fact that the new iPhone launched in just 8 countries vs. 21 countries last year.

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