ChangeWave Research has released a survey (PDF) of some 4,040 customers of U.S. cellular service providers that is rife with opportunity for the iPhone, if only Apple would seize it.
According to survey respondents, more than 40 percent of Sprint/Nextel and T-Mobile customers would seriously considering buying an iPhone were it available to them, as would just over a majority of Verizon customers. Unfortunately, despite strong demand for a Verizon iPhone, at least one analyst is now asserting that won’t happen until 2011.
Computerworld spoke with BroadPoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall concerning an evocative theory regarding the iPad, the iPhone, and AT&T. According to Marshall, “AT&T was able to negotiate a six-month extension on the iPhone exclusive.” This was accomplished as part of a deal whereby AT&T would offer data plans for the iPad at breakthrough pricing of $15 and $30 without any contract or commitment.
If that scenario sounds like a dubious conspiracy theory, it probably is. Marshall has previously asserted that AT&T’s exclusivity agreement would expire this June, and that it was a “certainty” that Verizon would be offering the iPad. Setting aside the rationalization of analysts, looking further into the ChangeWave Research survey makes it seem inconceivable that Apple would continue the exclusivity relationship with AT&T at any price.
Of those surveyed, AT&T customers reported the highest rate of dropped calls among the four carriers, three times that reported by customers with the best-rated provider, Verizon. Of course, AT&T disputes this data. From DailyTech, AT&T counters the ChangeWave Research survey is based upon respondent “recollection,” while “quantitative results” from research firm GWS put AT&T “within just two-tenths of a percent of the industry leader.” Even if you are Luke Wilson and accept AT&T’s explanations along with the company’s checks, there’s another problem with the iPhone being exclusive to AT&T.
The iPhone no longer generates “switchers” like it used to. Last year, the iPhone 3GS received, at best, a slight bump in bringing people to AT&T. Worse, it appears the Verizon Droid may be the new iPhone when it comes to luring customers to a different carrier. It will be interesting to see if the rumored iPhone HD can reverse that trend, but it seems unlikely, which means it’s time for Apple to switch, or at least add.
Verizon, with more than 90 million customers, more than AT&T, would mean at least an additional 10 million iPhones sold per year. Those sales would have a cascade effect on development, too. As more people bought more apps, the combination of sharply rising hardware and software sales could help turn back the surge of Android phones like the Droid.
A month from now the next iPhone will almost certainly be introduced at WWDC. Let’s hope we hear about a new U.S. carrier, too, otherwise it may be another year of listening to Apple executives talk about the “significant progress” AT&T has made with its network.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Why Apple Should Choose Sprint Before Verizon Wireless
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