AT&T recently announced it activated 5.2 million iPhones in the months of June through August, a record for the Apple device, but those numbers may quickly change as AT&T loses its iPhone exclusivity to Verizon early next year.
Analysts estimate between one quarter to nearly half of all AT&T's customers may defect in January when the iPhone becomes available on Verizon. Worse, the iPhone market is now saturated and isn't going to be growing like it used to be. Verizon selling the iPad next week could also keep defection high.
But is Verizon really that much better than AT&T? Let's take a look at the wireless facts.
1. Mobile Hotspots
As far as mobile hotspots go, AT&T seems preferable to Verizon, offering faster connection speeds and more reliable service--at least on the streets of San Francisco.
iPhone users just do not like AT&T. They say so in surveys and they complain online. However, Verizon hasn't proven itself to be a savior yet. So far the the iPad and the iPhone will be coming aboard Verizon soon, but no one has tested out the wireless network for comparison.
3. Carrying Capacity
Some may recall that the unveiling of the iPhone overburdened AT&T, and the company had to spend $2 billion to upgrade service. By contrast, Verizon's capacity can handle another 13 million customers in the next two years, analysts say. However, with AT&T's new upgraded system, AT&T is faster and better than before.
In Video: Apple's iPad Coming to Verizon
2. Customer Satisfaction
One of the biggest comparisons between the systems is price, but it differs with device. Verizon still offers an unlimited data plan for smartphones at $30 a month, yet AT&T does not offer an unlimited plan. Verizon's mobile broadband has a few different tiers, ranging from $20 per month for 1GB to $80 per month for 10GB. In comparison, AT&T offers owners of an iPad a $15 per month 250MB limit or $25 per month for 2GB (and must buy an additional plan if they go over limit or wait until the next billing cycle.) Other AT&T mobile broadband devices start (with a two-year contract) at $60 per month for 5GB--but Verizon's price for 5GB of data is $10 cheaper a month. That's a $120 savings on each netbook per year with Verizon.
5. LTE Networks
Although both Verizon and AT&T are developing LTE networks, there's been little news on speed or reliability. So far Verizon has said that its network will roll out to 38 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, by the end of 2010. AT&T's response to the news was that its 3G service was better than Verizon's.
AT&T still has a way to go to compete with Verizon in price and customer satisfaction. Now that AT&T has lost its exclusivity with Apple products, it will have to become more competitive if it expects to hold onto its customers and attract newer ones. Until then, I say go with Verizon.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.