The Thunderbolt is outselling the iPhone in 28 percent of Verizon stores, and matching it in 61 percent, according to a somewhat informal study conducted by BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk.
The trend may suggest that despite Apple’s famous user-friendliness and slick design chops, there is also substantial demand for what Apple CEO Steve Jobs has derided as “Hummers,” large phones with 4-plus-inch screens, so big “you can’t get your hand around it.”
The Thunderbolt sports a very large 4.3-inch display, and a recent report showed that smartphones with screens 4-inches and larger scooped up a quarter of the market is just six months last year, while market share for phones with display 3.5-inches and smaller — like the iPhone — fell by half.
The phone can also access Verizon’s high-speed LTE data network, which the iPhone can’t do, suggesting real demand for ever faster data.
With its single-core processor, the Thunderbolt isn’t even as brawny as they get, but its success may hint that Apple will need to step up its hardware performance to shine against the latest competition.
Despite Apple’s notorious secretiveness around unreleased products, there are rumors that the next generation iPhone will be the same size as the current device, but that it will squeeze in a slightly larger screen by extending it closer to the edges. Even at a hypothetical 3.7 inches, the iPhone 5 will have less screen real estate than the top-of-the-line Android field.
It remains to be seen whether Apple’s svelte design, with some upgraded internals, will be brawny enough for a public that’s getting used to some very muscular competition.
Piecyk’s team assembled the data by calling 150 Verizon stores across 22 major U.S. cities and asking about the sales for the two phones.