By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
April 22, 2012

There were two schools of commentary on Verizon’s (VZ) report last week that it activated 3.2 million iPhones last quarter, down from 4.2 million in the Christmas quarter.

“Verizon Q1 Adds: Tablets Up, But iPhones Down” was the headline on Investors’ Business Daily, as if the 1 million unit shortfall was bad news for Apple (AAPL).

MacRumors‘ headline, “iPhone Again Represents Over Half of Verizon’s Smartphone Sales in 1Q 2012,” set the tone on Techmeme, where most writers took the fact that the iPhone outsold all Android phones combined as bad news for Google (GOOG).

“Android is still winning by some metric, I’m sure,” quipped MG Siegler on his Paris Lemon blog.

But as AnAAPLDay pointed out on Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity board, Verizon’s iPhone activations don’t amount to a hill of beans in the context of Apple’s worldwide smartphone sales. To drive home his point — and get my undivided attention — he quotes an Apple 2.0 headline from February (and posts the Asymco chart above):

“63% of iPhones were activated outside the U.S. last quarter”

Moral of the story: If you’re concerned about iPhone sales in the March quarter, don’t worry about Verizon. Worry about China, where the iPhone 4S launched at China Unicom’s (CHU) and Apple’s Chinese stores in January and China Telecom’s (CHA) in early March. (See Overwhelmed by crushing demand, Apple halts Friday’s iPhone 4S launch in China and China’s Verizon gets the iPhone.)

See also the photo below:

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