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Half of Apple's iPhone 3Gs sold internationally

Two separate disclosures by Apple and AT&T last week combine to revealed that the iPhone, once driven largely by domestic sales, has grown into a big international business with the arrival of the 3G model.

In fact, close to one half — if not more — of the iPhone 3Gs sold between the handset's launch on July 11th and the end of Apple's September quarter were purchased internationally.

As part of its fiscal fourth quarter earnings report last Tuesday, the first quarter in which the iPhone 3G was available, Apple said it shipped 6,892,000 of the devices.

During an ensuing conference call, company chief operating officer Tim Cook addressed an inventory related question in which he noted that Apple was shipping to carriers in 51 countries by the end of the quarter, which combine for over 30,000 iPhone distribution points.

"To be precise, at the end of the quarter, I can tell you that we had about 2 million iPhones in total channel inventory across all of the 51 countries and we feel that these inventory [levels are] about right," he said.

That means that while Apple shipped nearly 6,892,000 million units, its sell-through was approximately 2 million shy of that figure, or 4,892,000 iPhones. The rest, as explained by Cook, were still on store shelves or in warehouses at the time of the financial call. Apple considers all shipped iPhones as sold.

The final piece of the puzzle arrived a day later when AT&T released its fiscal third quarter earnings, which it said were driven by 2.4 million domestic iPhone 3G activations.

Unlike with the original iPhone, Apple and AT&T now require all iPhones sold stateside to be activated — or tied to an account — at the point of sale to prevent unlocked exports, meaning the number of activations reported by the wireless carrier should correlate precisely to the number of sales.

Therefore, 4,892,000 iPhones sold, minus 2.4 million sold domestically, equates to 2,492,000, or more than half purchased internationally.