Smartphones Dominate AT&T Sales: No iPhone Mass Exodus - InformationWeek

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7/21/2011
03:39 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Smartphones Dominate AT&T Sales: No iPhone Mass Exodus

Nearly 70% of all the postpaid phones sold by AT&T during its second quarter were smartphones, including many iPhones.

At the close of the second quarter, half of all AT&T's post-paid customers -- some 34.2 million people--were using smartphones. That's up from 35.8% a year earlier. AT&T says its second quarter broke previous sales records, with 5.6 million smartphones sold. This represents 70% of all postpaid sales (the other 30% of postpaid sales were feature--or dumb--phones).

Of those 5.6 million smartphone sales, a whopping 3.6 million of them were iPhones. AT&T said that 24% of these customers were new to AT&T during the quarter. This is notable, since AT&T lost its exclusive distribution rights to the iPhone in February when Verizon Wireless started selling it. Many had predicted a mass exodus of iPhone users from AT&T to Verizon Wireless. It never happened.

Apple recently announced that it sold 20.6 million iPhones during its most recent quarter. AT&T is now but a small piece of Apple's much larger, worldwide iPhone pie. AT&T says that iPhone subscriber churn was down a bit from the previous quarter.

Android and other smartphone platforms saw big gains at AT&T. Non-iPhone sales doubled between 2010 and 2011, totaling more than 40% of smartphone sales for the quarter. The bulk of these were Android devices, though AT&T didn't reveal the detailed numbers. Android's growth at AT&T comes as no surprise as in early 2010 AT&T's Android lineup was the worst in the industry. T-Mobile still scores better Android handsets than AT&T, but AT&T has done well in shoring up its Android stock, with appealing phones such as the Samsung Infuse 4G now lining its shelves.

It's notable that AT&T doesn't specify the exact breakdown between Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone 7, and webOS smartphones. Is it hiding BlackBerry, WP7, and webOS sales numbers at the behest of its partners, or for fear of embarrassing them? Why not share this information? We can only speculate.

AT&T also experienced solid growth in the "branded computing" department. The company sold 545,000 branded computing devices, which includes tablets (377,000 of them!), MiFi mobile hotspots, laptop modems, and so on. AT&T sold double the number of branded computing devices during second quarter of 2011 than it did during the same quarter in 2010, probably thanks to the huge increase in Apple iPads out there. The total number of these devices now stands at 4.0 million.

In total, AT&T's subscriber base grew by 1.1 million to reach 98.6 million customers. This includes post- and pre-paid categories, among others. In the post-paid department, AT&T saw a net of 331,000 new additions.

Total wireless revenues, which include equipment sales, were up 9.5% year over year to $15.6 billion. Wireless service revenues increased 7.4%, to $14.2 billion, in the second quarter.

What this all means is that AT&T has a solid quarter. Though it predicts it will spend more than originally forecast on network improvements for the remainder of the year, it says other aspects of its financials will be unchanged as we head into the second half of 2011.

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