Are heavy iPhone 4S pre-orders a 'tribute to Steve'?

More than 1 million of the smartphones that are not iPhone 5s are pre-ordered

The death of Steve Jobs last week was a huge news event, dominating tech coverage and rendering forgettable Apple's unveiling on Tuesday of the iPhone 4S.

But if you remember, the general reaction to Apple's announcement was disappointment because everyone was expecting to see the long-awaited iPhone 5. I mean, who cares about the stupid 4S?

Plenty of people, apparently. The iPhone 4S has set a record for pre-orders, with more than 1 million in the first 24 hours. Apple said this top's the previous first-day pre-orders record of 600,000 for the iPhone 4.

Why is the 4S shaping up to be such a huge hit (especially after the palpable disappointment when it, and not the iPhone 5, was announced)?

One obvious reason is that Sprint Nextel now joins AT&T and Verizon Wireless as sellers of the iPhone. Sprint customers haven't been offered Apple's smartphones since the device's debut in 2007 -- until now. The No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier said it quickly sold out of its available iPhone 4S devices last Friday.

Verizon and AT&T also reported heavy pre-order demand and anticipated some shipping delays. The iPhone 4S is expected to hit store shelves on Friday (but probably won't be on those shelves long).

Interestingly, at least one analyst suspects many consumers are buying an iPhone 4S as a tribute to Jobs, who died last Wednesday of respiratory failure caused by cancer.

From Reuters:

"The preorders may also be part of respect for what Jobs has done," [said Barbara Sullivan, managing partner of Sullivan, a branding and marketing agency.] "It's almost like putting flowers by his headquarters."

Well, if you had to get a two-year contract for the flowers, with a stiff termination fee.

But Sullivan probably has a valid theory. Many consumers have deep emotional ties to Apple and its products. The death of Jobs triggered an outpouring of emotions on and off-line. It's easy to see hardcore Apple customers getting the iPhone 4S (wait a minute, iPhone 4S...iPhone 4 Steve!) as a form of tribute. It's also easy to imagine people who have been considering getting their first iPhone using this is a feel-good reason to finally indulge their desire.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) climbed above 400 on Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 29, trading at 400.31 around 3 p.m., up 3% from Monday's closing price of 388.81.

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