Study Claims Verizon Powering 32% of All U.S. iPhone 4s

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AT&T could be in serious trouble if a new study by data analytics firm Localytics proves accurate. According to the study, Verizon has already snatched nearly a third of the U.S. iPhone 4 market, despite AT&T’s roughly eight-month lead and the Verizon iPhone’s lack of unique hardware features. If you buy the argument that many would-be Verizon customers bypassed the Verizon iPhone 4 in anticipation of Apple’s next-gen iPhone, the data looks even more intimidating.

Localytics says it’s been charting the Verizon iPhone’s growth since the phone launched in February, and that it broke down all U.S. iPhone 4 traffic to arrive at the percentages: 32% to Verizon, 68% to AT&T. Another way to look at it: AT&T’s the clear market leader, but by less than many thought.

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The company goes on to call summer a “significant growth” period for Verizon, noting that the carrier’s spring share ratio was static, but that it grew substantially in May and June. Perhaps because of the “don’t expect a new iPhone until the fall” rumor-stories? Or the ones about the new iPhone’s feature set looking less than impressive?

But the best guess for the sudden uptick—I’m agreeing with Localytics here—is Verizon’s unlimited data plan ouster, officially killed today, July 7th (existing customers maintain their plans for the duration of their contract). AT&T scrapped their unlimited data plan roughly a year ago, so Verizon’s comparable data-smorgasbord was arguably a lure for data-heavy customers (like, say, me). Rumors of the unlimited data plan’s demise surfaced months ago, and may have driven get-it-while-you-can purchases, not unlike the 2010 home buyer tax kickback that briefly stimulated the U.S. real estate market. Of course the moment the home purchase rebate period ended, sales of new homes plummeted, an effect you’d expect to see with Verizon iPhone in the coming months, especially with evidence pointing strongly to a September launch for Apple’s so-called ‘iPhone 5′.

Still, says Localytics, Verizon’s performance curve may herald things to come when the next iPhone launches, at which point we’ll finally have a fair fight.

And for study skeptics, here’s Localytics’ methodology: “Each month’s market share number is based on the seven-day period leading up to the 1st of the month – therefore, numbers should be taken as market share on the first day of the stated month. Data is based on app usage as seen by Localytics.”

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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