iPad versus iPhone: Which had the better opening weekend?

Apple has confirmed its iPad sales figures. They don't match iPhone 3GS numbers, but Wall Street is happy.

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    Andres Schobel holds up two iPads as one of the first customers to buy iPads on the first day of Apple iPad sales at an Apple Store in San Francisco. Apple said Monday that it sold more than 300,000 iPads on Saturday.
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The iPad sales figures are in. Apple reported this morning that it sold more than 300,000 iPads on Saturday, the same day the tablet computer debuted.

This tally includes US pre-orders that arrived on people's doorsteps this weekend and copies sold in Apple stores.

New iPad owners quickly got to work tinkering with their new device: Shoppers downloaded more than 1 million iPad apps on Saturday and purchased more than 250,000 ebooks.

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“It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world – it’s going to be a game changer,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs says in a statement. “iPad users, on average, downloaded more than three apps and close to one book within hours of unpacking their new iPad.”

Not bad for less than 24 hours. But how does it stack up to the Apple iPhone? The answer depends on which model you compare the iPad to.

A month after the original launched in June 2007, AT&T counted 146,000 iPhones running on its network. Wall Street consensus expected a number several times larger. But from this slow beginning, Apple picked up considerable speed. Just a few months later, the iPhone and iPod Touch collectively became the fastest-adopted gadgets in history.

Apple went on to sell 1 million iPhones in 74 days. The Motorola Droid later beat that record, but Apple raced into the lead again with the release of later iPhones. Shoppers snapped up 1 million copies of the iPhone 3G in the first three days, and another 1 million iPhone 3GS units during its opening weekend.

But this is when comparisons to the iPad break down. You could argue that Apple's tablet computer should be compared to the later iPhones. The iPad is just the logical progression of the touch-screen device that Steve Jobs first presented in 2007. Don't reset the counter and declare the iPad more successful than the original iPhone just because this new device is larger.

However these numbers aren't apples-to-apples comparisons (har har). The iPhone 3G and 3GS went on sale in more than 20 countries. Saturday's 300,000 only includes the US. Plus, plenty of the American 3G and 3GS sales came from people stuck or extending their 2-year contract with AT&T by upgrading their current iPhone to something with better features. This means they already had a built-in user base, unlike the iPad, which harmonizes well but is no replacement for the phone. Not to mention, the 3G editions of the iPad don't come out until later this month.

Perhaps it's still too early to make any real comparisons – especially since the original iPhone took time to build momentum. We'll check in again after 74 days. But Wall Street is already happy.

"The strong initial demand for the new device led Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore to raise his earnings forecast and price target for Apple stock," reports the Mercury News. "Whitmore, whose firm has done non-investment banking work for Apple in the last year, now expects Apple's stock to hit $325 a share, up from a previous target of $250."

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