Sprint flubs sales numbers on Evo smartphones

But 'inadvertent' error called less important than user reactions to the 4G smartphone

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Sprint Nextel has a lot riding on the HTC Evo 4G smartphone, so the carrier's admission that initial sales were less than Sprint reported on Monday disappointed some analysts.

Sprint said in a statement late Tuesday that it "inadvertently erred" in saying it sold three times as many Evos on its June 4 launch day as both the Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre sold during their first three days on the market.

In fact, Sprint said, the number of Evos sold on launch day was one-third as many, or only "in line with" the number of both Instinct and Pre devices sold in their first three days.

Still, Sprint stuck with its initial report that the Evo broke first day sales records for any phone it has sold.

Industry analysts, including Walter Piecyk at BTIG, said the adjustment means Sprint probably sold about 150,000 Evos in the first three days, compared with his initial estimate that Sprint sold up to 300,000. Sprint is not revealing actual numbers, following a practice in the rest of the smartphone industry.

Individual buyers, some of whom lined up on June 4 outside of stores, couldn't care less about the mistake and are more concerned with the phone's performance, other analysts said.

"At least [Sprint] corrected their statement," remarked Ken Dulaney, a Gartner Inc. analyst. "My take is that I have to be wary of everything [I hear] and hope that speakers will correct what is false as quickly as they can."

Dulaney said he personally likes the Evo "a lot," especially its 4.3-in. diagonal screen, which is bigger than the 3.5-in. iPhone screen. "I can see text easier," he said.

Dulaney said the Evo's battery life "isn't that great," and is the biggest criticism many reviewers have of the device. However, he also noted that even the iPhone will lose battery life in two hours when Google Maps and real time tracking are running.

The iPhone 4, announced Monday by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, features a higher resolution Retina display and other display improvements as well as a bigger, more powerful battery. It ships June 24. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9177799/Hands_on_with_Apple_s_new_iPhone_4

The Evo's biggest shortcoming is that some applications are harder to use on the Evo than on the iPhone, requiring extra steps or creating confusion, Dulaney said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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