updated 08:10 am EST, Thu January 27, 2011
ATT activates 4.1m iPhones in Q4, 442,000 tablets
AT&T had its best fall ever for growth today as a send-off for its US iPhone exclusivity. It added 2.8 million total new subscribers and overtook Verizon to become the largest US carrier, with 95.5 million people. Its iPhone adds weren't as high as in the summer but were still its best for the fall, jumping from 3.1 million a year ago to 4.1 million at the end of 2010.
The iPad also played a role in device results. AT&T added 442,000 new tablets to its mix in the fall from a combination of Android and the iPad, but with the Samsung Galaxy Tab only available for the last month of the period, almost all could be attributed to Apple. About 90 percent, regardless of type, were taking advantage of the prepaid data option.
The overall smartphone drive was reflected in AT&T's wireless data revenue jumping 27.4 percent year-over-year and the average revenue per person up to almost $63, indicating that the growth in smartphone adoption was offsetting the decision to offer the cheaper $15, 250MB data plan. Its customer turnover was also at a record low, going down to 1.32 percent overall and 1.15 percent for subscription users.
While a record, the quarter was a bittersweet one for the carrier as it will no longer have the certainty of an iPhone exclusive and was still heavily reliant on Apple's device to represent its customer additions. The carrier isn't necessarily due to face a mass exodus to Verizon but is expected to see fewer defectors from rival carriers and will likely lose significant numbers of customers in trouble areas where its 3G network quality is still problematic, such as New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.
AT&T was optimistic and expected to increase its revenue in 2011. So far, it has primarily counted on carrying advanced Android devices like the Motorola Atrix 4G as well as the HTC Inspire 4G and Samsung Infuse 4G. With the exception of the Samsung Captivate, it had mostly neglected high-end smartphones in 2010 outside of the iPhone and the late launch of Windows Phone 7 hardware.