Paying two hundred bucks for a new iPhone on a two-year contract is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Verizon has jumped on the bandwagon with carriers like T-Mobile, offering new data plans and eliminating subsidies for new customers. The change effectively separates the cost of hardware from data pricing and line connection charges.
The predictions that Apple would announce a multiple-carrier model for the US did not come true on Wednesday at the iPad special media event. In fact, Apple made a deal with the carrier to provide data services to iPads, and didn't mention any changes in the exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T.
For its part, AT&T has announced major improvements to the range, speed and strength of its 3G wireless network. The company currently provides service to twice as many smartphone customers as its nearest competitor.
Rumors have surfaced that AT&T could lose its exclusive deal with Apple to sell the US iPhone as early as this summer. Apple may even announce that the iPhone is destined for additional carriers at their special media event this Wednesday in San Francisco.
Several analysts had predicted that the fourth generation iPhone might move to multiple carriers in summer of 2010. What analysts might not have considered is that AT&T is actually welcoming the change.
AT&T has announced a drop in pricing on the unlimited voice and data plan for iPhone. Previously, iPhone owners could purchase unlimited calling minutes and data for $130 monthly. The new unlimited plan drops this price by $30 to $100 per month.
The company subsequently dropped their Nation 1350 plan, which had offered 1350 calling minutes and unlimited data for $110. The next step down on the plan ladder is now the Nation 900 plan, offering 900 calling minutes and unlimited data for $90.
Next year could be it for AT&T. Customers are losing patience with spotty service. Lawyers are filing class action lawsuits about the lack of MMS. Now Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Gene Munster has forecast the end of Apple's iPhone exclusivity deal with AT&T.
According to Munster, the economics of the situation don't make sense for Apple, as evidenced with the success they've had in France moving to a multiple carrier business model. Market share for the iPhone in France has increased to 40 percent since they ended an exclusive deal with Orange.