The iPhone 5 will benefit three of the top four U.S. mobile carriers, but no clear winner is yet seen among them, according to a report by ComScore.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and reportedly Sprint each stand to grab a healthy slice of the market demand for the new iPhone. But each carrier brings something different to the table, making it difficult to predict which one might benefit the most, says ComScore.
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AT&T holds the dominant share of existing iPhone customers. As of July, 81.9 percent of iPhone subscribers were with AT&T, leaving only 15.1 percent for Verizon, according to the report.
Following the launch of the new phone, all current iPhone carriers will likely continue to offer the iPhone 4 at a discount. AT&T could pick up even more customers by also continuing to sell the iPhone 3GS cheap. But that advantage may be short-lived since at some point, the older model iPhone will cease production, especially if Apple launches a low-cost iPhone 4.
Though Verizon's percentage of iPhone users may be low, its satisfaction rates continue to be high. In July, ComScore found that more than 76 percent of Verizon smartphone customers graded the carrier with a score of 8 or higher out of 10, compared with 68 percent for other carriers. Among existing iPhone users, 23 percent said that they will switch or are seriously thinking of switching to another provider, opening the door for more business to come Verizon's way.
However, Sprint also stands to do well if it gets custody of the new iPhone as it would be the only carrier to still offer an unlimited data plan. That benefit alone could scoop up new customers and prompt current data-slurpping users to switch carriers to grab the lower-price plan. However, questions have been raised as to how long Sprint could retain its unlimited plan, especially given a flood of iPhone users gobbling up data that the network might having trouble supporting.
No matter how the carriers fare with the new iPhone, the one company certain to come out ahead is Apple, ComScore said.
"Putting the operators aside, the one clear winner so far would appear to be Apple, which stands to gain market share from the additional market sectors penetrated by Sprint and providing another device option for customers of AT&T and Verizon," the report noted. "As the Android platform continues to grow in popularity, it will be interesting to see the role the iPhone 5 plays in the platform share race and how this will ultimately impact the operator industry."