HTC EVO 4G “Virtually” Sold Out

The first 4G smartphone in the US, the HTC EVO 4G, is sold out, again. Sprint‘s HTC EVO 4G order page:

Sorry, this device is so hot we can’t keep it on our virtual shelves. Check back later – more are on their way!

I’m starting to think spinsters are everywhere. I do think the HTC EVO 4G is fairly popular, but less so than Sprint would like you to believe. Let’s get some perspective on how Sprint has done so far in terms of being accurate or honest about its sales. June 4th was when the EVO 4G was launched and this is what Sprint initially announced on June 7:

June 4, 2010 sales of HTC EVO 4G marked the largest quantity of a single phone sold in one day ever for Sprint – the record was previously held by both Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre. Launch day sales of HTC EVO 4G were six times great than launch day sales of Samsung Instinct and nearly twice the launch day sales for Palm Pre.

Next day, on June 8:

We originally reported that the total number of HTC EVO 4G devices sold on launch day was three times the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined. We inadvertently erred in the comparison. The total number of HTC EVO 4G devices sold on launch day was in line with the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre devices sold over their first three days on the market combined.

What kind of an apples-to-oranges comparison is this? One day versus three days? The funny thing is Sprint never came clear as to what the number of Samsung Instinct or Palm Pre device sales were over their first three days on the market, so there really is no way to make accurate calculations about EVO 4G sales. All we have are hints. Palm’s 10-Q (PDF) ending on August 31, 2009 reported that net device unit shipments were approximately 824,000 with an average selling price of US$427. (In the same period in 2008 Palm shipped approximately 1,334,000 units with an ASP of $273.) I believe the Palm Centro and Treo Pro sales are included in that figure. After searching online for quite some time I wasn’t able to get first day or first three day sales figures for the Palm Pre or Samsung Instinct on Sprint. A not-too-unreasonable estimate seems to be about 50,000 units on launch day. Since, according to Sprint, EVO 4G first day sales were equivalent to Palm Pre’s first three days you get around 150,000. Is that a spectacular number?

From three times the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre combined to in-line with the number of Samsung Instinct and Palm Pre smartphones in three days is not simply a matter of inadvertently erring a comparison. My guess? Sprint didn’t exactly know how many EVO 4G smartphones it had sold at the time but needed to announce something quickly to keep the excitement going. Just as a comparison, the iPhone 3GS coincidentally took three days to hit 1,000,000 in unit sales (source All Things Digital).

Is the HTC EVO 4G really sold out? There are more than one way an item can be sold out. One is due primarily to higher-than-expected demand: the company expected X number to sell but actual demand is for a whole lot more than X. Another can be due to lack of supply: the company expected X number to sell but for some reason can’t make X. I think Sprint experienced the first type of selling out during the HTC EVO 4G launch, but this time the company is probably dealing with the second reason.

The EVO 4G has a touch issue where it needs to be grounded for it to work properly (read HTC EVO 4G Touch Problem: Needs to be Grounded). There is also a glass separation and light leakage problem on the EVO 4G. A potential problem for glass separation is dust: if dust gets in, there is almost no way to get it out. HTC is working on making changes to the production process that will prevent future models from experiencing glass separation and light leakage. In addition, the company is also working on the touch issue. It seems HTC needs to improve the quality of its workmanship.

Yes, the EVO 4G is sold out on Sprint’s website probably because the company, as well as HTC, doesn’t want to sell more with the current technical problems, which will become even bigger problems once they are sold.