updated 01:00 pm EST, Wed February 18, 2009
Rogers Q4 08 and iPhone
Rogers on Wednesday revealed that smartphones are becoming a large part of its business. The Canadian telecoms company says that its cellphone business in the holiday quarter was buoyed by selling 400,000 smartphones, most of which were either Apple iPhones or one of RIM's BlackBerry devices; about 40 percent of these were those new to Rogers, while the remaining 60 percent were for those replacing phones or upgrading to smartphones in the first place. About 49 percent of the 158,000 new, subscription customers were moving to the devices.
The shift also helped Rogers generate a 36 percent year-over-year boost to its data revenues, though the company simultaneously blames a very soft 1 percent annual increase in its quarterly profit, to $968 million, on the heavy discounts on smartphone prices that drew customers in during the last few months of 2008. These are partly compensated for by higher revenue per person as many of these users spend more on monthly service.
During a conference call to discuss its results, the carrier didn't break down the split between devices; however, it has already said it activated about 130,000 iPhones during the period, which leaves the Apple hardware representing about 33 percent of all its smartphone sales between October and December. Division president Nadir Mohammed points to a shift towards BlackBerries at the end of the year and notes that Rogers sold roughly twice as many BlackBerries as it has in any other quarter before. The company added both the Pearl Flip and the Curve 8900 during the period and also had the advantage of a full season's worth of customers for its BlackBerry Bold.
Despite the iPhone numbers being down significantly from the 255,000 sold during the summer peak, Mohammed insists that there is very "steady" demand and says "without hesitation" that the device is strong for Rogers. He likewise dismisses notions that the company would end up diluting sales of either the BlackBerry or iPhone lines with new models, observing that certain devices have an appeal more likely to attract users.
"Not every smartphone is created equal," he explains.
Most watchers note that the iPhone combined with the BlackBerry Bold has been critical to Rogers' ability to attract and keep customers, with either device's dependence on heavy data use being instrumental to the company scrapping its historically restrictive mobile Internet plans and to giving Rogers a temporary advantage over competitors Bell and Telus, which have had to offer more heavily discounted data plans of their own.