Who's switching from AT&T to Verizon iPhone? It's probably not you
The rabble worshipping Apple's so-called Jesus phone are in for a surprise. The expected mass-exodus from AT&T to Verizon may be more myth than reality. Yesterday I asked Betanews readers "Would you buy Verizon iPhone?" and embedded a poll in that story and two others. At least among the tech-savvy people who read Betanews, the informal survey suggests that most will not switch from iPhone 4 on AT&T to iPhone 4 on Verizon. Nor are they likely to abandon Android phones. Prominent blogger or journalist posts, particularly the prognosticators of Android's doom, give a different impression. It's reality check time, baby.
Betanews readers give many reasons for sticking with what they've got, and for many it's not iPhone. Reasons range from satisfaction with their existing (usually Android) handset to concerns iPhone 4 is already outdated to there being no LTE support.
Nicholas Gerstenberger expresses a common concern about Verizon, which, I concede, probably won't matter to the mass of users (but would to me and many of you): "My one gripe with Verizon's CDMA network is that there is no simultaneous use of voice & data; besides the slightly higher costs."
Matthew Hochman would switch. "I would absolutely jump ship from AT&T," he writes. "I love my iPhone, and until last year AT&T was the best provider where I am (an island off the coast of Maine) but last summer AT&T had a total failure almost all summer-- slow service, dropped calls, then one weekend all AT&T service just stopped, when we called to find out what was up, AT&T refused to admit there was a problem." Hochman was by far in the minority of Betanews readers answering in comments.
Yesterday's poll offered six answers. I took the unusual approach of offering yes and no options to the same question, which is somewhat redundant but useful in capturing emotional context and also getting a different perspective on respondents' intentions. The approach is useful for an informal survey where the respondents aren't qualified -- meaning I don't know who they are. In my experience there is different emotional context behind yes and no responses. Poll takers could only answer once. The question: "Verizon's iPhone will be available Feb. 10, 2011. Will you buy it?" The answers readers could give:
- Yes, I'm an existing Verizon customer switching from another handset.
- Yes, I'm switching from another carrier and non-iPhone device to get Verizon's iPhone.
- Yes, I'm an AT&T subscriber and iPhone owner switching to Verizon.
- No, I'm an existing Verizon customer either not interested in or eligible for Verizon iPhone.
- No, I'm sticking with my existing carrier and non-iPhone handset.
- No, I'm an AT&T subscriber and iPhone owner either not interested in Verizon iPhone or locked into contract.
I closed the poll at 10:20 am ET this morning, with 484 responses. Only 10.3 percent of respondents with an iPhone on AT&T say they will switch to one on Verizon. Another 3.1 percent would switch from another carrier with non-iPhone device. So little more than 13 percent of respondents say they would switch from another carrier and handset to Verizon iPhone. Still, 10 percent shouldn't be understated. During the first three quarters of 2010, AT&T added 5.2 million net subscribers for a total 92.2 million. Even if just 5 percent switched, AT&T would lose those gains and see a dramatic decrease in switchers -- at least from Verizon.
Among Verizon subscribers, 17.52 percent of respondents would switch from another handset to iPhone. That's a huge number for the carrier and, at the least, valuable for retaining customers rather than having some switch to AT&T for iPhone 4. The benefits to Verizon shouldn't be understated. During the first three quarters of 2010, Verizon added only 400,000 net subscribers for a total of 93.2 million. Putting it altogether, 9 out of 10 respondents with AT&T iPhone won't switch to Verizon iPhone. One in six Verizon customers will switch to iPhone. Regarding the internal switchers, there is question: will many switch from Android handsets? Probably not, since the install base is largely feature phones. Betanews reader responses somewhat supports this contention.
"I already use Verizon and have an Android phone," writes commenter Robert Bradley. "Why would I want an iPhone and the iTunes anchor?"
Douglas Utley also won't give up Android. "I'm sure a lot of AT&T customers and part of the younger crowd that doesn't mind not being able to customize their phone might jump on it but I'm sticking with Android for the foreseeable future," he writes.
Regarding those "no" answers in our poll, the numbers are unsurprisingly higher than those for yes: 20.8 percent of respondents won't switch from AT&T iPhone to Verizon iPhone. Another 25.62 percent won't switch from another carrier and non-iPhone device. Among existing Verizon customers, 22.52 percent won't switch to iPhone.
"I doubt I ever will [switch]. I'm still enjoying my one-year old Droid," Gerstenberger adds. "Thanks mostly to a large community of coders pumping out updated ROMs to a device that Verizon has completely given up on. I enjoy what I can do with it. But thats me, I like to hack my hardware and push it to it's limits beyond what was originally 'intended.'"