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AT&T: iPhone 3G S pre-orders in the "hundreds of thousands"

Although some of its retail stores on the east coast have already run dry of their initial allotment of iPhone 3G Ss, Apple's exclusive U.S. wireless provider AT&T tells AppleInsider that it sold "hundreds of thousands" of the new touch-screen handset during its online pre-order process.

"[AT&T] sold hundreds of thousands through our preorder process prior to the launch, which exceeded our own expectations for iPhone 3G S," Michael Coe, a representative in the carrier's corporate communications department, wrote in an email Friday. "Just wanted to make sure you have this information as well."

Although Coe declined to comment on whether that figure exceed 300,000 units, the "hundreds of thousands" statistic alone is likely to put first-weekend iPhone 3G S unit sales estimates from many Wall Street analysts underwater.

In a research note issued to clients earlier this week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimated that Apple would sell roughly half a million iPhone 3G Ss during its first weekend on the market.

With Apple's own pre-order process likely to have trumped AT&T's, it now appears that the Cupertino-based company will handily sell more than a million devices during the first three days, which would make the iPhone 3G S launch more successful than the iPhone 3G launch last year.

Adding further support to this theory are comments coming out of Apple's UK wireless provider O2. In a blog post Friday, the carrier reported that by lunchtime local time, it had sold more iPhone 3G S handsets than it sold iPhone 3G devices on launch day last year.

Phone 3G S devices being packaged for shipment at an AT&T Distribution Center in Ft. Worth, Texas.

"Sales are still going strong and we expect to have sold 50% more iPhone 3G S handsets than last year’s launch by the close of business today," a representative for O2 said. "Footfall to our shops this morning was 10 times higher than an average day and our online site saw a 150% increase in traffic."

The wireless provider also noted that, thus far, the black iPhone 3G S is outselling the white one by 3:1.