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iPhone fixation vs. Britney Spears fever and Barack Obama mania

June 27, 2008 | 10:16 am

Back in April, as rumors began to swirl about a new iPhone, 1.3 million people conducted nearly 7 million online searches for information about the iPhone or iPhone-related terms, according to a new study by comScore Marketer, a Web traffic measurement service.

Britney_spears_2That works out to about 5.3 iPhone searches per person.

To get a sense of whether that's a teensy bit obsessive, I talked with Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst at comScore. He ran a few more terms for me to see how Apple's iPhone stacked up in April against other pop culture standard-bearers.

What emerged is that the iPhone searchers are a small passionate group who may be in need of an intervention, or a new iPhone.

In comparison, almost 2 million people searched for "Britney Spears" 3.8 million times in April -- a month that saw the pop diva back in the news after the singer was involved in a minor traffic accident. That's about two Britney-related searches per person.

Iphone_full_screen2_2 The same month, as presidential candidate Barack Obama was distancing himself from his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., just over 2 million people searched for "Barack Obama" for a total of about 5 million searches. That's about 2.5 searches per person. But still not at the iPhone preoccupation level.

And what about the new Indiana Jones movie, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which was scheduled for release in May? Half a million people did 1.8 million searches in April, which works out to 3.6 Indiana Jones-related searches per person.

The iPhone even beat out its cousin, the iPod, in obsessiveness if not in volume. In April, 3.5 million people searched for iPod-related terms 12 million times, which is 3.4 searches per person.

"It was clear there was an overwhelming interest in this product that was just rumored at the time," Lipsman said about the iPhone.

How exactly those numbers will translate to sales when the new iPhone 3G goes on sale July 11, Lipsman couldn't say.

Apple surely must be reading its own set of data-infused tea leaves and seeing in their swirls that demand for the new iPhone is high. The company will produce 15 million iPhone 3G devices -- which run on a faster data network, include built-in GPS and cost as little as $199 -- this calendar year, Craig Berger, a semiconductor analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey, told Barron's.

Berger estimates that Apple will produce 17 million iPhones this year, including the 2 million older versions it has already made. That's 4 million more than what Berger had previously expected and 7 million more than what Apple has publicly targeted.

Could the fixation with technology have trumped the obsession with celebrity?  Yes, among a core group of followers, iPhone fever is bigger than Britney fever or Barack fever. Someone tell the paparazzi.

-- Michelle Quinn

Photo credits: (top) Dan Steinberg / Associated Press; (bottom) courtesy of Apple


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