AT&T Spanks Verizon With New Wireless Customers

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.