AT&T Spanks Verizon With New Wireless Customers

| Analysis

Verizon reported Friday that it signed up 997,000 new wireless customers during the September quarter, which sounds like a lot, but AT&T managed to do that, and then some. Ma Bell reported late on Thursday that it had signed up some 2.6 million new wireless customers, handily trouncing Verizon, the king of Android phones.

Digging a little deeper into those numbers, we should look at what the industry calls “postpaid” accounts, or actual wireless subscription plans (as opposed to low-end, prepaid accounts). During the September quarter Verizon had a net gain of 584,000 new postpaid accounts, while AT&T saw a net gain of 745,000 postpaid accounts, and that was just from its own retail stores (i.e. not including new subscribers from Apple’s retail stores).

AT&T vs. Verizon

AT&T’s “connected device” net gain alone was large enough to beat all of Verizon’s net gain in new customers. AT&T reported a net gain of 1.2 million connected devices, more than 200,000 more than Verizon’s entire subscriber gain.

Breaking out the iPhone by itself, AT&T specified that it activated a record number of new iPhones during the quarter, 5.2 million of them. This is 62% higher than the previous record quarter of 3.2 million iPhone activations.

Whither the power of mighty Android in crushing the iPhone? It’s hard to tell, because Verizon did not break out its Android activation numbers.

Verizon does still lead AT&T in total customers, with 101.1 million, compared to AT&T’s 92.8 million, but that gap has been narrowing since the second quarter of 2009, as demonstrated in Dan Frommer’s Chart of the Day. Since that time, AT&T has gained more new customers than Verizon every quarter, despite the rapid growth of the Android platform, and much of that can be attributed to the iPhone.

In the current quarter, for instance, AT&T claimed that 24% of all iPhone activations were from customers new to Ma Bell. AT&T also had a lower churn rate, which is the percentage of customers that leave a carrier. AT&T had a total churn rate of 1.32%, while Verizon’s churn was 1.36%.

And all this is within the context of AT&T being the recipient of constant criticism for its network.

These numbers are a clear indication of the power of the iPhone to attract new customers. Verizon has spent a small fortune investing in and promoting the Android platform, yet it is still losing the battle for new customers.

These numbers are also why it will be shown that it was Verizon that blinked and accepted the iPhone on Apple’s terms, rather than Apple blinking and ceding control of the iPhone user experience to Big Red.

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This surely bodes well for the iPhone once it is on other carriers. With all the news lately you would think that this article must be wrong. So what gives?


Article right, the headline’s just wronnnnnnnng. grin


With such good new, One is moved to higher orbs to sing a happy song:

And who can’t love Apple save Envyboys
whose numbers are dwindlin’
I know but one who slights the toys
- a brave new world beginin’.

And all bid adieu to Gooooolish plight
Its folly friends and misfits’ blight
To make new life to blow a horn
with hasty rout from Stevie’s iPhone.

For most forsook their fettered fates and vanities,
Looking with languished-eyes upon new beauties
Wait not for time to dump their Crap’nsteins
And make a move to sanitize
their lips and ears and minds.

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous AppleStore appear
O brave new world
That has such people in’t
To share in AT&A’s great cheer!

I’m sure the Bard would approve slight alterations.


The headline is catchy; but the problem persists. If Android is kicking iOS’s butt, how can AT&T be spanking Verizon with the iPhone being the primary difference since Verizon doesn’t carry it? Someone’s reporting is wrong.

Lee Dronick

Article right, the headline?s just wronnnnnnnng.

It is a great malaprop. Why didn’t AT&T use a paddle or a hair brush. smile

Getting back on topic, these are interesting numbers. AT&T is only behind Verizon by less than 10%.

Ross Edwards

The headline is amusing, but what the facts in the article really tell us is that AT&T might be, and probably would be, in deep trouble without iPhone exclusivity. 

We don’t know what AT&T is giving Apple specifically, though we know parts of it—ceding control of the platform, a gigantic subsidy, and so forth—so the particular strength of AT&T’s position we can only speculate.

Verizon, meanwhile, may be greatly helped by the Android series, and it may be doing fine independent of them, but what we can tell from the facts on their face is that Verizon’s revenue lines are many and diverse, while AT&T depends heavily on one specific bring-in.

If I were to use all this information to make, say, an INVESTING decision… I would invest in Verizon and Apple.  Verizon because their position seems the more robust, and Apple because they win either way.


so because AT&T wants to expand to more handsets Bloomberg reports that it must mean that the iPhone exclusivity is ending, way to overanalyze a continuously expanding business…


“If Android is kicking iOS?s butt, how can AT&T be spanking Verizon with the iPhone being the primary difference, since Verizon doesn?t carry it? Someone?s reporting is wrong.”

Obviously, unless the numbers Verizon & ATT reported are lies, then whoever is reporting that “Android is kicking iOS?s butt” is just wronnnnnnnng about that.  (Sorry, Brad.)


The headline is amusing, but what the facts in the article really tell us is that AT&T might be, and probably would be, in deep trouble without iPhone exclusivity.?

Well, didn’t you read that linked article, “CHART OF THE DAY: If AT&T Is So Bad, Why Is It Beating Verizon Every Quarter?”, which contained these links that said an investment bank’s new survey says the damage of losing the iPhone is being overblown: 63% of iPhone owners will stick with AT&T, when it loses the exclusive right to sell it, and that because AT&T?s service is actually at least as good as or better than Verizon?s everywhere in the US except the two or three most important cities (NYC & SF, +/-Chicago), the churn for AT&T therefore might be even less than 23% of its iPhone users switching to Verizon, (despite what the provincial “attfail” tweet pseudo-consensus suggests).

That’s why that investment bank (Credit Suisse) names AT&T as the real investment bargain.  And also because AT&T’s product line has more diversity in OS’s than any other carrier.

Lee Dronick


My wife and I probably would stay with AT&T if the iPhone ever is also offered on Versizon or some other carrier. It has been our experience that here in San Diego that AT&T service has mostly been reliable. Same for other cities that we visit on a regular basis, San Francisco East Bay area, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

If Verizon offered a very competitive family pack then maybe we would switch, maybe.

Dean Lewis

I’d stick with AT&T is Verizon offers an iPhone. If Sprint offers an iPhone, however, I’d jump to Sprint pretty quickly. Obviously just a personal opinion based on the experiences of a small group of friends—but that pretty much stands in for analysis these days anyway. smile

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