AT&T's declaration that only 146,000 Apple iPhones registered on its network in the first two days it was on the market has led to widespread shock at what is now being seen as the device's failure and a down period for Apple shares, sliding 7.5 per cent over a few days last week, a fall of some $10bn in total market capitalisation.
Not so good for me, as a shareholder (although I am still way up on my initial investment), although John Gruber took a different view.
What is it about this “146,000 activations” number that has rotted out the minds of the business press? If you care about opening weekend iPhone sales, the number that matters is 270,000, which is how many phones Apple sold.
However, the latest story is that AT&T are desperately trying not to sell iPhones in their shops.
Following a MacDailyNews report that AT&T Stores have been hiding and refusing to demonstrate Apple iPhones to potential customers, readers have reported mixed but negative-skewing experiences about their attempts to purchase or even just see iPhones at AT&T stores. Some positive reports have been posted, but MacDailyNews and many of its readers have suggested that AT&T stores and their employees are being less than cooperative with customers interested in testing or purchasing the iPhone.
Some reports claim that the iPhone display units that appeared around the device’s launch have been removed, without explanation. Other reports claim that AT&T employees informed customers that they had to purchase an iPhone to be able to see one. Still others suggest that the commission-based employees are not receiving enough financial incentive to push the device over other models, and that they have instead opted to attack the product.
A report from “DM” states, “I went to my local corporate ATT store in Northern NJ, they did not have any iPhones in stock (probably true). But what a little disconcerting is that they were trashing the iPhone and Apple as putting out a bad product and suggested that I buy the new Blackberry Curve. I just smiled, walked out and across the mall and bought one at the Apple Store.”
A separate report from “Jim Steward” states, “My local AT&T store had them on display at first, then took them out. The display is still there, but no iPhones are attached. I didn’t have any trouble purchasing the iPhone, but they would not even bring it out of the back room until I had paid for it. If I hadn’t been set on buying the iPhone when I walked in or had not already looked at and held one, I would’ve gone to another AT&T store to see if I was treated any better.”
This, of course, could be interesting. The vast majority of the problems with the iPhone that I have seen reported are with the AT&T network—specifically the EDGE system used for internet access (when there is no Wi-Fi network available)—and so I would guess that Apple might think twice about the exclusivity deal.
If AT&T salespeople are trying to prevent people from buying the iPhone (which is, of course, where Apple makes its money) could this be a way of Apple breaking that deal? Given the vast number of phones that have been sold, might other network carriers now be encouraged to negotiate with Apple when they weren't before.
All of the indications are that, were Apple to switch to a 3G carrier, it is entirely possible that the reviews for the iPhone would be even better; as I have speculated before, they may have to do this in the UK and Europe anyway. And one assumes that it could be done through a relatively simple downloadable software update.
In any case, it seems as though AT&T should certainly not be regarded as an ally of Apple in this particular field.