When it comes to mobile phone carriers, AT&T is the worst, according to Consumer Reports. The company examined the overall value of service, customer support, voice and data service quality to make its recommendation. In every category, AT&T placed behind the competition.
The review is obviously bad news for AT&T. But it’s also bad news for Apple. For years now, the hardware company has maintained an exclusive agreement with AT&T to sell the iPhone in the United States. This keeps Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile customers from acquiring the popular iPhones. If consumers and enterprise customers take Consumer Reports’ review to heart, it could have a direct impact on their decision to switch to that carrier just to get their hands on the iPhone.
With that in mind, Apple needs to distance itself from AT&T. It shouldn’t stop offering the iPhone on AT&T’s network-that would be a huge mistake. But it adds urgency to its decision to bring the iPhone to at least the Verizon network. Apple’s link with AT&T is simply too strong and it needs to be weakened. Apple should also make it clear that it’s AT&T’s service that’s getting the bad marks from Consumer Reports, not the iPhone.
1. The “worst carrier” allegation
The most obvious reason why Apple needs to distance itself from AT&T is the Consumer Reports review. Apple is well-known for its outstanding products that deliver a sense of quality and premium feel. AT&T isn’t the same kind of company. The more Apple aligns its brand exclusively with AT&T, the worse it will be for the company.
2. Apple is a premium provider of a premium product
As mentioned, Apple is a premium provider of a premium product. It delivers products that consumers covet, and it does it with a sense of flair that no other company in the space can match. But by being linked so closely with AT&T, the company’s brand perception could be hurt. It should in no way end its business relationship with AT&T-that would significantly impact its operation-but it should ink a deal with another carrier soon and make it clear that AT&T is only a partner, not a key ally.
3. It makes the iPhone look less desirable
Let’s face it: If AT&T’s service really is the worst in the business, the iPhone is a less desirable product today to some customers. Sure, the device might be a leader in the smartphone market, but consumers don’t want to use a device that has poor data and voice service, thanks to AT&T. AT&T has been (remember iPhone 4 order issues?) and now will definitely continue to be a major thorn in Apple’s side as it tries to sell more iPhones to consumers.
4. It makes consumers wonder when Verizon will get the iPhone
With the latest review from Consumer Reports, one can be sure that consumers are now hoping that Apple will be bringing the iPhone to Verizon store shelves sooner rather than later. Since the iPhone’s launch in 2007, it has been available only to AT&T customers. Some folks are getting tired of waiting for the smartphone to come to Verizon’s stores. If this isn’t enough to get Apple to do it, some might wonder what will be.
Apple Must Move iPhone to Other Carriers
5. Any changes in sight?
Apple needs to determine if AT&T will be doing all that it can in the coming year to change the perception of its brand as the worst provider of mobile service in the United States. If it’s clear after talking with AT&T that the company won’t do enough, Apple should weaken its strong bond with AT&T as quickly as possible. After all, why should Apple’s brand be tarnished by AT&T’s poor service?
6. It helps Google
Now that AT&T is considered the worst carrier in the United States, it will probably take little time for Google to exploit the iPhone’s exclusivity on AT&T’s network for further proof of why Android is more viable. After all, Android-based devices are available on all carriers and not just AT&T’s network. That’s an important distinction that Apple cannot allow Google to capitalize on.
7. Android smartphone makers also benefit
If Google can benefit from the Consumer Reports review, it’s entirely possible that Android smartphone makers can do the same. Companies like Motorola, HTC and others are currently offering the top iPhone competitors, including the HTC Droid Incredible and Motorola Droid X, on Verizon’s network. If they can use that to their advantage, they might be able to capitalize on the iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity.
The iPhone might not be the most enterprise-focused smartphone on the market, but it is making some strides in that space, thanks to interested IT decision-makers. However, with AT&T being called the worst carrier in the United States, some companies that might have been considering moving to the iPhone on AT&T might think twice. If they’re already AT&T customers, it won’t matter. But if they aren’t, those companies will likely stick with their current carrier until the issues are worked out. That’s something that Apple should keep in mind.
9. It hurts sales
If one combines many of the previous factors for why Apple should distance itself from AT&T, one result becomes immediately apparent: Sales of the iPhone will be hurt. AT&T plays a role in iPhone sales. In some cases, it helps them, and in other cases, it hurts them. With a poor rating from Consumer Reports, this is one of those cases where AT&T will hurt iPhone sales. If Apple can distinguish its smartphone from AT&T more effectively than it has in the past, the company can probably go a long way in salvaging some potentially lost sales.
10. It’s ditching exclusivity anyway
As Apple has done in so many countries around the world, the company will eventually end the iPhone’s exclusivity in the United States. And when it does that, it will be free to deliver its smartphone to any other carrier. Considering it will be doing that anyway, perhaps now is the best time for it to announce a new partnership. With AT&T on the ropes when it comes to service quality, the last thing Apple should want to do is reinforce that it’s exclusively in AT&T’s corner over the long haul.