AT&T Reports iPhone Sales Strong Despite Loss of Exclusivity

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AT&T revealed its first quarter earnings on Wednesday morning, and things look pretty good considering this is the first quarter that the wireless company has had to go without the benefit of an exclusive iPhone contract.

AT&T reported a first quarter revenue of $31.2 billion, which is about a 2 percent increase from the first quarter of 2010. AT&T shares went up from $0.41/share in the first quarter of 2010 to $0.57/share, which is about a 39 percent increase, as the New York Times points out.

AT&T also reported 1 million new iPhone subscribers for the period, almost a quarter of which were new to the carrier. According to the report, iPhone subscriber "churn," or the number of people who left the carrier, remained unchanged from previous years.

What AT&T is trying to tell us is that, au contraire to popular belief; everyone did not jump the AT&T ship as soon as Verizon gained the iPhone 4. Of course, what AT&T is not taking into account is that just a month before Verizon started selling the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS went on a fairly deep discount ($50 with contract). And, of course, the iPhone 3GS is exclusive to AT&T.

I'm not the only one to note this obvious confounding variable--Peter Pachal of PC Magazine also points out that the iPhone 3GS may be making AT&T's numbers look a little better. As Pachal says, it's telling that AT&T doesn't distinguish how many of the new iPhone subscriptions were iPhone 3GS subscriptions, and how many were iPhone 4 subscriptions.

The numbers will reveal more when the next iPhone comes out--and then both carriers have an older model to sell at a deeply discounted price. The 8GB iPhone 3GS currently sells for just $49 (with a new 2-year contract), which is a steal if you're looking to pick up an iPhone. By comparison, the iPhone 4 goes for $200 (with a new 2-year contract) on both carriers.

So AT&T's first quarter earnings don't necessarily mean that the Verizon iPhone didn't make an impact--perhaps it just means that there are a lot of cheapskate Apple fans out there. But still, good for AT& I'd like to see how Verizon did.

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At a Glance
  • The iPhone 4 is a major upgrade from its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS, in everything from the camera quality to data speeds.


    • Beautifully designed hardware and software
    • Excellent still and video camera


    • New antenna is a major design fail
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