For investors wondering what the damage would be at AT&T (NYSE: T) if its top telecom competitor ever started offering the iPhone, here’s your answer: A frighteningly large group of their users could jump ship. Take these recent findings from a ChangeWave Research survey of iPhone 4 users.
ChangeWave asked owners of the new Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) gadget how likely they would be to switch wireless providers if Verizon (NYSE: VZ) began offering the iPhone. A total of 13% said they were Very Likely and 18% Somewhat Likely to switch to Verizon. And that’s among users who already have their own iPhone.
It’s no secret why so many might cut the cord if they could. When asked what they dislike about their new iPhone 4, the top two complaints related to AT&T’s network. Specifically, 27% of owners said they don’t like “the requirement to use AT&T’s network” and 24% disliked the “coverage/speed/quality of AT&T’s 3G network” according to ChangeWave.
Of course, Apple didn’t help matters with its recent antenna issues and all the criticism that reception problems were as much due to the phone’s construction as to AT&T’s overloaded network. In the survey, “antenna issues” and “excessive dropped calls” were close to the top of the complaints list among iPhone 4 owners as well.
But it’s also worth noting that many of the new iPhone owners surveyed by ChangeWave thought the antenna issues were overblown. Nearly two-thirds reported it Wasn’t a Problem or they Haven’t Experienced Any Problem, while another 14% reported it Wasn’t Much of a Problem. Additionally, when asked whether they were satisfied with Apple’s response to the issue and a solution that involved giving away a free case, nearly three-in-four (73%) reported they were Very or Somewhat Satisfied.
So in the end, AT&T is perceived by many as the unsolved Achilles heel of the iPhone — and whatever antenna issues Apple has appear to be taking a back seat. It’s even possible that these negative views of AT&T are causing the telecom company to unfairly take the blame for dropped calls and reception issues that may in fact be due to flaws in the iPhone’s design rather than any network failings.
But perception is reality — and the perception among a large group of iPhone users is that that they would be better off as subscribers of Verizon instead of AT&T.
AT&T has managed to gather quite a captive audience of iPhone subscribers thanks to its exclusive agreement with Apple, but it’s only a matter of time before competitors like Verizon get their shot at hosting the smartphone.
And when they do, AT&T could have a rude awakening.
The ChangeWave survey of iPhone users was conducted July 19 to 28 and involved 213 iPhone 4 users.