According to a new survey of US smartphone users, three times more AT&T customers than Verizon customers said they had experienced calls being dropped. The results suggest that despite massive investment in its infrastructure, AT&T still has significant problems to overcome. However, one financial analyst believes that AT&T will retain its exclusive iPhone deal in the US at least through this year. The reason? A "quid pro quo" sweetheart deal for iPad 3G data plans.
ChangeWave Research, the company that does the polling for the InvestorPlace.com site, released the results of a survey of 4,040 smartphone users
in the US done during March of this year. They were looking into "trends in customer satisfaction and loyalty, future market share demand, and the issue of dropped calls," and discovered that AT&T's results were in a death-spiral on all those measurements. As far as dropped calls go, while Verizon customers reported that 1.5% of their calls were dropped - the best result of the 4 US major carriers - AT&T customers said that 4.5% of their calls were dropped. Sprint and T-Mobile customers were essentially in a tie for second, with 2.4% and 2.5% of calls dropped respectively. And unsurprisingly, only 23% of AT&T customers said they were "very satisfied" with their service, as opposed to 49% of Verizon customers.
And while a full 53% of these happy Verizon customers said they'd buy an iPhone if they could, it doesn't look like Apple is going to give them the option in 2010. According to Brian Marshall, a Wall Street analyst at BroadPoint AmTech, "AT&T had to do something dramatic
to get the iPad." So what they did was to give Apple the rock-bottom pricing it wanted for 3G data. No other US 3G carrier can touch the $29.99 all-you-can-eat plan, and so, Marshall told Computerworld's
Gregg Keizer, "AT&T was able to negotiate a six-month extension on the iPhone exclusive." Most observers believe that the existing AT&T iPhone deal was set to expire this summer.
It's hard to imagine Apple turning away customers, but the company's executives must have thought it could sell enough expensive 3G iPads with this deal to make up for the iPhone buyers it'd be turning away. After all, the only difference between the $499 16GB WiFi iPad and the $629 16GB WiFi + 3G iPad is a single $7 chip
. It's pretty much a money factory for Apple.