AT&T still leading iPhone carrier despite Verizon, Sprint joining in

Nov 10, 2011
Tech

For the first time since it was originally launched way back in 2007, the iPhone is now available from three of the top four cellular carriers in the U.S. But it’s still good to be AT&T, Apple’s original exclusive partner on its incredibly popular smartphone. AT&T is still enjoying the benefits of that exclusivity deal, […]

For the first time since it was originally launched way back in 2007, the iPhone is now available from three of the top four cellular carriers in the U.S.

But it’s still good to be AT&T, Apple’s original exclusive partner on its incredibly popular smartphone. AT&T is still enjoying the benefits of that exclusivity deal, with 56 percent of iPhone buyers opting for Ma Bell over joining newer players Verizon or Sprint.

Apple added Sprint to its iPhone stable with the release of the iPhone 4S in October, putting it together with AT&T and Verizon. Apple brought the iPhone to Verizon earlier this year with an iPhone 4 of its own, as well. But before the two carriers joined Apple’s line-up, AT&T was the only carrier for the iPhone.

And according to a new study from Localytics, an app research company, most iPhone 4S buyers are opting for (or sticking with) AT&T. The study found that 56 percent of iPhone 4S users are going with AT&T, compared to 32 percent with Verizon and 12 percent with Sprint.

GigaOM has the story, which discusses the fact that AT&T is probably still benefitting from its exclusivity deal with Apple because a great deal of iPhone owners were ready for an upgrade when the iPhone 4S came out, giving them the subsidized price for the device. Meanwhile, Verizon customers who purchased the iPhone 4 have only had it for a few months and wouldn’t be eligible for a subsidized upgrade.

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It also appears as though most of the Sprint customers who are jumping on the iPhone 4S bandwagon are taking business away from Verizon, rather than AT&T. GigaOM reports that the split on the iPhone 4 between AT&T and Verizon was about 60-40, so the 12 percent of customers heading to Sprint seem to be responsible for Verizon’s reduction to 32 percent of the iPhone 4S market, whereas AT&T has only lost about 4 percentage points.

AT&T said that it activated some 1 million iPhone 4S devices within the first four days of the phone’s release, although Verizon and Sprint both said they had sold record numbers of iPhones after the release of the 4S. Sprint’s launch of the device has been somewhat problematic, however, with users reporting troubles with their data speeds on Sprint’s network.

While AT&T still has a dominant position in the iPhone 4S market, the balance of power between the carriers could shift later this year when Verizon and Sprint users are able to upgrade on their contracts. The release of the iPhone 5, expected in the summer, might finally unseat AT&T as the iPhone leader in the U.S., but only time will tell.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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