Apple confounded most estimates on first weekend iPhone 3G sales, delivering a record one million units sold by Sunday night. The company also revealed ten million applications to have now been downloaded from the App Store.

Only RBC Capital Market’s Mike Abramsky had anticipated global iPhone sales on the launch weekend would reach one million, while Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster had anticipated less than half this mark, 425,000 unit sales.

The news is certain to please investors, and provides slight justification in terms of the activation problems which plagued most customers in the US and the UK on launch day Friday 11 July.

Apple’s UK network partner O2 last week told Macworld UK: "Demand is really high. In some of our stores we have been selling 40 iPhones an hour – the same level of sales those stores usually do in a day."

Dominic Hulewicz, O2’s head of convergence services and both a Mac switcher and former BlackBerry user as a result of the iPhone said: “We’re seeing phenomenal demand. I was staggered.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems ebullient, too, saying: “iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It took 74 days to sell the first one million original iPhones, so the new iPhone 3G is clearly off to a great start around the world.”

Applications available from the App Store now number 800, that’s 300 up from the 500 offered on launch and indicative of the company working its way through a huge pile of submitted apps, prompting Jobs to remark: “The App Store is a grand slam, with a staggering 10 million applications downloaded in just three days,” said Jobs. 

What makes these figures singularly significant is that the number of mobile phone handsets expected to be sold next year number 1.35 billion, with smartphones set to account for 270 million of those.

Apple has aimed at selling ten million iPhones during the current calendar year. While it seems off to a very strong start, we’ll have to see if the promise of Apps is sufficient to maintain momentum, as Nokia, RIM, Palm and others begin to answer back with their product introductions.

 

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