iPhone X pre-orders are finally live, and it seems like demand for the phone isn’t a problem. If you pre-order an iPhone X right now, you’ll be waiting 5-6 weeks for delivery. Obviously, this means that Apple doesn’t need to do anything extra to sell its latest flagship.
But the same thing doesn’t apply to carriers. The iPhone X is going to be a big device for carriers; people buying one will likely stick with the same network for the duration of their contract (24 months), and are more likely to have additional lines for wearables, or more expensive unlimited data plans.
Those kind of customers are worth spending a little extra to attract, which is why most of the big networks are offering some kind of promotion on the iPhone X. The deals are pretty tame: in most instances, carriers are just offering a few hundred dollars for a trade-in, with Xfinity Mobile the only carrier to offer a significant deal.
But AT&T stands out for all the wrong reasons. The company isn’t offering any kind of deal on the iPhone X, and that could hurt the company long-term — especially when Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile is running such a good deal. “Comcast’s focus on the bundle represents more risk for AT&T, in our view,” Deutsche Bank’s Matthew Niknam wrote in a note seen by Fierce Wireless. “AT&T’s focus on bundling has been key to retaining share, whether in video, wireless or broadband. While there’s been much discussion around a more active AT&T in recent weeks (potentially weighing on cable video trends), we think Comcast’s $500 gift card for new triple-play customers represents an incremental risk for AT&T given its national video platform, with lack of broadband bundling opportunity outside its 21-state ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier) footprint.”
AT&T thinks it can compete without deals, and CFO John Stephens said as much during an earnings call this week. “We believe we can compete and win based on our product offerings and that promotional activity of an extensive nature is not necessary,” Stephens told analysts.
We’re going to have to wait for the next round of quarterly earnings to know if AT&T was right about this one. But right now, the carrier is in an uncomfortable position, days before the biggest phone of the year hits streets.