AT&T prepares for the end to iPhone exclusivity
The end of 2010 is close and it looks like AT&T is beefing up its device portfolio and app offerings for a day when it isn’t the only U.S. operator offering the Apple iPhone.
Earlier this week, the nation’s second largest wireless operator launched the first Microsoft Windows Phone 7 phones, and it also added two new Android smartphones to its line-up. Additionally, it announced a new deal with app store provider GetJar, which will help it address the app market beyond smartphones.
By the end of the month, it’s expected to begin selling the first commercial competitor to the Apple iPad. And it’s been spending millions of dollars in advertising since this summer marketing the BlackBerry Torch, the first QWERTY/touch screen BlackBerry to use the latest BlackBerry OS 6.
All of this activity has been happening as rumors circulate that AT&T will lose its exclusive contract to offer the Apple iPhone in the U.S. Press reports indicate that Verizon Wireless will likely get a version of the iPhone as soon as the first quarter of 2011.
While some have speculated AT&T may lose disgruntled iPhone users who are unhappy with the carrier’s network, the bigger threat may be that AT&T will lose an important incentive to lure new subscribers to its network. In a market where more than 90 percent of the population already has a cell phone, wireless operators are constantly battling one another to steal customers. The exclusive contract with Apple has helped AT&T grow its subscriber base because the device wasn’t offered anywhere else. But soon, customers lusting for the iconic iPhone will have more options.
AT&T has quietly been preparing for this fateful day. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T’s wireless business, told an audience that AT&T intended to diversify its smartphone offering and bring apps to every device it sells. The company introduced its first Google Android phones in the first half of the year and even launched some Palm OS phones in 2010.
The new phones launched this week and the GetJar deal are a continuation of this strategy.