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Why Wouldn’t AT&T Want To Sell iPhones?

Submitted by on August 5, 2012 – 8:59 amNo Comment
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A curious article from Boy Genius Report: apparently, multiple sources within AT&T retail stores are confirming that regional managers have ordered them to steer customers away from the iPhone. The news coincides with quarterly reports that show iPhone activations have slowed for the carrier.

Regional retail sales managers at AT&T have been instructing store managers to pump the brakes on Apple’s iPhone. Instructions handed down from corporate state that customers seeking smartphones at AT&T retail stores should be steered away from Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and towards Android phones or Windows Phonehandsets like the Nokia Lumia 900 instead. BGR has confirmed the directive with three independent sources.

Even when customers come into stores specifically looking for the iPhone 4S or iPhone 4, staffers have been instructed to make an effort to show people Android and Windows Phone devices as well, so they can “make an informed decision.” In addition, AT&T retail staff in at least some locations are no longer permitted to obtain iPhones as their company-owned devices, and must instead choose an Android smartphone or a Windows Phone.

Of course, many observers just assumed that iPhone sales were decreasing as iPhone 5 rumors ran wild, causing consumers to wait a few extra months for the next generation device.

AT&T then gave a statement to BGR completely denying the rumors:

The idea that we would steer any customer away from a particular device couldn’t be more farfetched.  Our reps do what it takes to align customer needs with the best device for them.  iPhone remains one of our most popular devices, which doesn’t happen by steering people away from it. Our reps are encouraged to try all devices so they are more knowledgeable on our industry-leading smartphone lineup.

The language about “align[ing] customer needs with the best device” is odd, but AT&T does address the simple question: why mess with one of their best sellers?

If BGR’s report is true, I have to wonder things like: do Android and Windows devices offer a better profit margin? Wouldn’t AT&T want to start clearing their stocks in anticipation of the iPhone 5?

One likely explanation is that the iPhone’s success is the exact reason why AT&T wants to diversify their sales- they feel too dependent on the iPhone, and are no longer the sole carrier for the device.

What do you think?

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