The latest Apple iPhone to Verizon rumors have the analysts out in force, and these people are saying AT&T could lose up to one million subscribers to Big Red if that “magical” smartphone stops being exclusive.
This fear could be why AT&T made it a lot easier for existing customers to upgrade to the iPhone 4. It bumped up the upgrade eligibility date and this appeared to work, as early surveys suggest that many of the new iPhone sales were upgrades.
“What AT&T is trying to do is get customers to upgrade to the new iPhone and sign a new two-year contract and in the meantime they’ll work to improve their network,” said Chris Larsen, Piper Jaffray analyst, in an interview with Businessweek. “So you won’t want to opt out because of the termination fee and in two years hopefully you’re happy with your service and you don’t want to switch.”
One million customers would be a significant blow to AT&T but it wouldn’t be fatal. AT&T has about 87 million subscribers compared to the nearly 93 million for Verizon.
AT&T knows that the iPhone exclusivity will one day end and it has publicly said it’s not too concerned about losing the device to Verizon. The company does have a decent smartphone lineup outside of Apple and it also placing a big bet in using its wireless network for a variety of devices.
The second-largest U.S. carrier already supplies the wireless data for the Amazon Kindle but it has broader ambitions. It already offers a data-connected dog collar and it thinks everything from medicine bottles to medicinal containers could benefit from being connected.
We’ve been hearing Verizon iPhone rumors for years and it may be inevitable but I don’t expect it to happen for a few years. Big Red has aligned itself with Apple rival Google and I expect that partnership to continue for a while.