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4/24/2012
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iPhone Sales Crush The Competition At AT&T

Apple's iPhone outsold other smartphones nearly 4-to-1 during AT&T's first quarter. The company activated a total of 5.5 million smartphones, boosting smartphone subscribership to nearly 60%.

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AT&T reported solid first quarter earnings Tuesday with revenues of $31.8 billion, up $575 million (1.8%) versus the year-ago quarter. The company ended the January to March period with profits of $3.6 billion, which is up from the year-ago quarter's $3.4 billion.

AT&T attributes a good chunk of its quarterly success to its wireless business unit. The company saw a 19.9% increase in wireless data revenue, which climbed by more than $1 billion compared to the year-ago quarter. AT&T sold 5.5 million smartphones, and notes that 30% of all its post-paid customers are using 4G-capable devices.

The company netted 726,000 wireless customers, and saw its lowest churn in seven quarters at 1.1%. It claims to have 103.9 million total customers, which includes postpaid net adds of 187,000, prepaid net adds of 125,000, and connected device net adds of 230,000 from the first quarter.

The company also set internal records for the number of branded computing devices (think iPads and other tablets, mobile hotspots, etc.). It netted 460,000 such customers, bringing the total number of branded computing subscribers to 5.8 million, a number that's up almost 70% from a year ago. AT&T also saw its ARPU (average revenue per user) step up 1.7% to $64.46 per month.

In all, not bad.

Smartphones, in particular, helped drive a lot of AT&T's growth. The 5.5 million smartphones it sold represented 78% of all post-paid device sales. At the end of the quarter, 59.3%, or 41.2 million, of AT&T's postpaid subscribers had smartphones, up from 46.2% and 31.5 million a year earlier. That's an incredible number: three out of five of AT&T's profitable post-paid customers are using smartphones.

AT&T notes that both Android smartphones and the iPhone were good sellers during the quarter, but look at the fine print in the results. The company sold a total of 5.5 million smartphones--but 4.3 million, or 78.2%, of them were newly "activated" Apple iPhones. (AT&T's "activations" and "sales" can not quite be directly compared because activations includes used devices being reactivated on new accounts, though AT&T admits that the distinction is small.) Considering how extensive AT&T's lineup of non-Apple smartphones is, that means its customers aren't all that interested in anything other than the iPhone.

Verizon Wireless reported similar smartphone results last week. Verizon sold 2.1 million LTE smartphones, and there are 11 Android smartphones available from Verizon with LTE 4G on board. Verizon sold 1.1 million more 3G iPhones in the first quarter than it did all LTE 4G Android smartphones combined. So much for the appeal of 4G.

It's worth pointing out that iPhone sales dropped at both AT&T and Verizon Wireless quarter-over-quarter, though maintaining sales from the holiday quarter into the early part of the year isn't always easy. Maintaining any sort of sales momentum for the current lineup as the next-generation iPhone's release nears will be even more difficult.

Even so, the appeal of Apple's iPhone at both AT&T and Verizon Wireless is clear, with the device out-selling the competition in each carrier's lineup. Can new devices such as the Lumia 900, Titan II, and One X make a dent in the iPhone's appeal? Nokia and HTC certainly hope so.

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