Apple increases Q1 iPhone shipment estimates

Smartphone maker orders 21 million units to be shipped in first quarter of 2011

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Clearly Apple expects big things from the iPhone early next year, thanks in large part to the long-awaited deal with Verizon Wireless.

According to Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, Apple now plans to ship 20 million to 21 million iPhones in next year's first quarter, up from the company's previous estimate of 19 million shipped units.

(Also see: Apple, Verizon Wireless make inevitable iPhone deal)

And 5 million to 6 million of the new smartphones are CDMA units. Verizon Wireless uses CDMA technology in its wireless network.

In other words, Apple's deal to make Verizon Wireless only the second carrier (after AT&T) to offer the iPhone instantly increased estimated iPhone sales by, conservatively, 25 percent. It makes you wonder why it took so long for Apple to ink an agreement with Verizon, especially given all the complaining about the quality of AT&T's wireless network.

As of next month, when Verizon begins selling the iPhone, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA will be only wireless carriers in the U.S. not selling the Apple smartphone.

Apple is estimated to have shipped 15.5 million iPhones in the current quarter and about 47 million in 2010. Even without the Verizon version of its iPhone, Apple's expected sales in Q1 would be nearly double the 8.36 million iPhones sold (according to Gartner) in Q1 of last year.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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