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The phone industry is way too complicated to be able to assume that cause and effect can be simply described.

Losing the iPhone exclusivity might actually end up being good for AT&T. One possible mechanism to explain that:

- All their high usage, low profit (and vocal) iPhone customers go to Verizon.

- Their generally oblivious, high ARPU, low usage customers don't bother to switch... especially since their service will be much better after the high usage people leave.

- Their high-profit business customers get happier since they get the benefit of all the iPhone-driven network upgrades without actually having all those iPhones around to kill the network.

- They get a chance to throw marketing money at pulling in Android customers, which right now has a higher volume and better terms for carriers (better share of revenue, lower handset subsidy) than the iPhone anyway.

Of course it could also end up being awful for AT&T. Or it could wind up being generally neutral. Certainly losing exclusivity in the UK doesn't seem to have killed off O2.

To get a 'tectonic shift' I think it would be necessary for Apple to start selling unlocked, cross-network devices only with no subsidized options. But they have shown no desire to do that to date - they pretty much had to be forced to do so in the parts of the EU where it's a legal requirement.

"- All their high usage, low profit (and vocal) iPhone customers go to Verizon."

That's not necessarily a good thing. Where the leaders of tech go, others tend to follow. Especially since in-network calling saves you on minutes.

Why are high-usage users "low profit"? They charge you money for every megabyte of data you use and every minute you are on the phone.

Even for the 2gb data plan they will be expecting a certain level of breakage (use under 2gb, which is charged but never used).

The same is true of minute bundles. Users which go a lot over (and pay per minute) are fine, users which are a lot under (and still pay for the bundle) are fine. Users who are averaging use of 80-120% will probably be costing the provider more than they pay.

Don't most people just have an unlimited data plan?

AT&T does not offer an unlimited data plan anymore.

On Sprint and T-Mobile, yeah, we have unlimited data plans.

AT&T doesn't offer an unlimited plan anymore, but all the existing users are grandfathered in. They get to keep their unlimited plan as long as they continue to renew it. Most of the people who want an iPhone on AT&T have already got one, so it's not like there are many people left to join and start using a ton of bandwidth.

If Verizon were to offer the iPhone, a lot of the AT&T users with unlimited plans who are using a ton of bandwidth would jump to Verizon, and, if they were to try to return to AT&T, wouldn't be able to obtain an unlimited plan.

Previous unlimited plans have been grandfathered in, so it's probably safe to say that most iPhone users have unlimited data plans.

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