AT&T losing ground in wireless phone battle with Verizon

IPHONE4

(John Spink, AJC)

The numbers tell the story.

AT&T is losing ground in the battle for new wireless phone customers, and Verizon Wireless  is only getting bigger.

According to an Associated Press report, Verizon signed 501,000 new customers to data plan contracts  in the first quarter, compared with only a net gain of 187,000 new contracts for AT&T in the January to March period.

Almost all of the new AT&T contracts were for the iPad tablet, instead of the more lucrative iPhone smartphone. Companies make more money off smartphone subscribers with data plans, who often pay more than $100 monthly, than tablet subscribers, who can pay $15 to $50 a month.

Most of Verizon’s new contracts were for wireless phone customers. Verizon began selling the iPhone a year ago.

“Over the last five quarters, Verizon has added nearly three times as many contract subscribers as AT&T,” the AP report says. For perspective, the two split new subscribers nearly evenly over the previous two years.

AT&T, the first to offer the iPhone through an exclusive agreement with Apple before Verizon and others were allowed to sell it, activated more phones last quarter, but not nearly as much as in the previous quarter. The company said it activated 4.3 million iPhones in the first quarter, compared with 3.5 million in the same period a year ago, but down from 7.6 million the October-to-December quarter.

Still, AT&T posted first-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates on lower smartphone upgrade costs and an increase in wireless data sales due to the iPad. First quarter net income was $3.6 billion, or 60 cents per share, up 5 percent from $3.4 billion, or 57 cents per share, a year earlier.

Could there be a correlation between the slow growth in wireless phone customers and a  recent Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey that  gave AT&T the lowest rating of any of the four major mobile carriers in the U.S.?  The survey of 66,000 Consumer Reports subscribers put Verizon in the No. 1 spot, followed closely by Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T.

Or is something else at work?

76 comments Add your comment

GoodScout

April 24th, 2012
12:31 pm

No, you’re right. It’s customer sat. I’ve been an AT&T customer since the first iPhone launched. But their poor customer service, screwing of loyal customers with “unlimited” data plans makes me look forward to the launch of the new iPhone 5 – which will come out just as my contract expires. I’ll be one of many jumping ship.

Big Al

April 24th, 2012
12:36 pm

It has been a nightmare dealing with AT & T for the last year. I have been with them for 45 years but will leave as soon as my contract is up. I am sick of waiting on the phone for 45minutes or longer while I get transferred around.

Been berry berry good to me!

April 24th, 2012
12:40 pm

I have been with AT&T since 1992 when they were bellsouth mobility, then cingular and I had a bag phone and peak time minutes were 35 cents! I feel like their customer service has been pretty good actually. I’m now on a SAMSUNG NOTE which I love (instead of an iphone 3gs).

Rob G

April 24th, 2012
12:44 pm

They treat their customers like crap. What do you expect?

Jeffrey

April 24th, 2012
12:46 pm

I used to work for AT&T and really gave them a chance to keep me as a customer, but after nearly two years of AT&T Wireless service on my iPhone and not being able to actually make or receive calls from my Midtown Atlanta condo, which actually has a nice view of the AT&T Wireless HQ building, I gave up and switched to Verizon once they got the iPhone. I have been one happy camper since switching.

matt

April 24th, 2012
12:47 pm

From commercial fiber lines to cell phones, AT&T support has always disappointed me at every level. I am no longer a customer. Thank god they weren’t allowed to merge with T-Mobile.

Banker Bob

April 24th, 2012
12:49 pm

AT&T is simply the worst run company ever. Do you know that if you have bad credit, you are required to post a $450 NON-REFUNDABLE deposit to get U-Verse service. Now I am all in favor for companies requiring deposits for folks with bad credit to protect themselves from taking a loss, but at the end of your service or a probationary period, you get the money back if you paid everything ontime. Not with AT&T. That is just an extra fee that does NOT get applied to a bill, nor can you get it back at the end of your service. So this is not a deposit, it is a one-time fee that you must pay in order to be eligible to get the service. This is what they dream up in the corporate office to separate you from your money, instead of focusing on how they can improve the worst customer service in the industry.

burdell

April 24th, 2012
12:55 pm

AT&T’s biggest problem is their terrible coverage. They have actually made improvements in their customer service. They will continue to lose customers until they fix the coverage problem and more importantly stop slowing down customers who have unlimited data plans. Think about it AT&T!!! We are your most loyal customers!!! We’ve be with you the longest and you treat us the worst!! Somebody needs to lose their job. You can’t fix stupid!!!!!

jd

April 24th, 2012
12:57 pm

AT&T is behaving as though they are the monopoly they once were — treating school systems like trash, holding universities in contempt… and customers are mere annoyances

AT&T = MONEY HUNGRY

April 24th, 2012
1:02 pm

Hello People. Are people just starting to realize that all AT&T and APPLE care about is MONEY!!! They dont care about people or customers PERIOD! They took unlimited away from their loyal customers and made them pay for data plans!! LOL!! It does not get any worse than that!! Verizon graqndfathered everyone in to unlimited that had it and even offered unlimited to new customers if they got new phones. AT&T HAS HORRIBLE SERVICE ANYWAYS AS THEY ARE ALWAYS DROPING CALLS!! OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!!! STOP WASTING YOUR EARNED MONEY!!

Chuck

April 24th, 2012
1:06 pm

The obvious reason for such losses is “Customer No Service”. Clarke Howard has been railing on them for years. You’d think they would get it together.

Ski

April 24th, 2012
1:06 pm

The second happiest day of my life was several years ago when I fired Bell South to go cell phone only (happiest day was when I fired Comcast). So a couple of weeks ago I signed up for AT&T DSL service… they got the FIRST BILL wrong and it took me 1/2 hour to get it straightened out. To AT&T: its the customer service, stupid.

awesome

April 24th, 2012
1:08 pm

SPRINT IS AWESOME !!!!

Blue

April 24th, 2012
1:12 pm

Jeffrey; ditto. I had been with AT&T in their various forms ever since I have had a cell. Live in Kennesaw. All of a sudden, around early 2011, my signal became degraded at my house and all over the area where I function 95% of the time…in areas where the signal had been strong in the past. I called…month after month…hearing the same story “we are upgrading a tower” or “it is due to the migration to 4G”. I got partial refunds every month for about 8 months. And then…they said they were done with their upgrades and my signal still was awful. Dropped calls, not able to get on data server, etc. Switched to Verizon in December…and have had a grand TOTAL of two dropped calls. And their customer service is superior. No-brainer until someone at AT&T at the top realizes what a crappy experience they give their clients.

Mark

April 24th, 2012
1:12 pm

I’m so glad I decided to read the posts. I’ve been with T-mobile for 10 years and was thinking about switching to ATT to get the IPhone. I guess I’ll stay put.

Happy Verizon Customer

April 24th, 2012
1:15 pm

I too had a bag phone with Cingular and loved Cingular great customer service. Then ATT came along and after dealing with the worst customer service and complete disregard for paying my bill every month for 18 years on time. I thought the he…. with you folks I am gone. I love Verizon they are great to deal with and have gone out of there way to satisfy us. I am going to buy an Ipad and ATT actually has a better plan but I promise you there is no way I will ever and I mean ever give ATT another dime of my money. I’d rather pay more and be treated with respect than pay less and be treat the way I was by ATT.

Larry30

April 24th, 2012
1:16 pm

I was a Verizon customer for years and took five of my numbers to AT&T when the iPhone 3G came out just to get the device. After a few months with them I made the comment to one of the associates that they could just shut the doors if they ever lost the exclusive right to sell the iPhone. As soon as my contract ended I went back to Verizon and got the iPhone 4. AT&T has the worst coverage, customer service, and the most pathetic website for customers I have ever seen.

Lurwaner

April 24th, 2012
1:18 pm

AT&T’s customer service sucks… They do not care about customers… The CSR are clueless… Verizon is soooooo much better…

ben

April 24th, 2012
1:18 pm

I detested AT&T when I was with them. They sent me a coupon, “$15 off your next bill if you extend your contract for a year.”

So I said ok, I’ll do it. They extended my contract, but then wouldn’t give me $15 off, saying I had switched to GSM or something and wasn’t eligible. Well why did they send me the coupon? So I called and called and moaned and whined, and finally they said, “Ok, because you have been a good customer…”
“Hell, no, you’ll do this because you made the offer to do it. I don’t care what kind of customer I am, you sent me a $15 off coupon, now make it good.”

In the end I got out of the contract-breaking fee, and switched to Verizon, where I’ve been a satisfied customer ever since.

J

April 24th, 2012
1:20 pm

Sprint Enough Said

Butch

April 24th, 2012
1:22 pm

I’ve actually been pretty happy with AT&T at my house. Have had Verizon before and their coverage at my house was lousy. I guess it just depends on where you live and are most of the time. I agree that AT&T’s service downtown is very hit or miss.

Can you hear me now?

April 24th, 2012
1:23 pm

Satisfied AT&T customer here. The grass isn’t always greener. Verizon has their hurdles, too.

WHY UNION JOBS ARE GOING OVERSEAS

April 24th, 2012
1:25 pm

Wanna know why your college educated kids can’t find jobs. It’s because AT&T laid off elderly employees who depts closed years ago were placed in technical jobs that are over their head. If a hospital admin employee is laid off u don’t hire them as a nurse just cause there are openings. If you all only knew the elderly AT&T employees that are taking up space and can’t comprehend their basic job functions after 3 & 5yrs u would be OUTRAGED. They make 50k-65k a year and have to be shown how to email. Ga. Tech is right around the corner & those kids could learn those low end tech jobs their freshman year. What is more upsetting is most of these unskilled employees the company let hang around have enough years to retire but will not force them out. I am not against elderly working. I’m against my neighbor bothering me all damn day with entry level questions on their 5th year in the position.

Don’t get me started on FMLA scams. If U don’t know about fmla, it’s basically a gov’t program FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT that started in the 90’s to allow men to stay home with their infants. It would not count against their attendance but it was up to the company if they pay or not. Well FMLA is used today for everything but newborns. Now u can go to a doctor & claim u have headaches or backaches and the company have to give u off & it does not go against your attendance. AT&T coworkers have abused it so much (especially since they are paid in full the first 12 weeks). I have coworkers who take off every Mon & Fri on fmla. If the dept has OT, the fmla queens are the 1st to get it cause of their high seniority. Yeah, that’s right, work Tues, Wedn, Thurs but Sat is OT cause their FMLA covers Mon & Fri.

THIS IS THE REAL REASON UNION JOBS ARE MOVING OVERSEAS.

Joann Horton

April 24th, 2012
1:29 pm

I’M A RETIREE, AT&T GET BACK TO CUSTOMER FOCUS AND LOWER YOUR PRICES, CUSTOMER FIRST PROFIT WILL COME WITH SATISFIED CUSTOMERS.

Pete

April 24th, 2012
1:35 pm

My dad worked for ATT, Bellsouth for 42 years and we have been Bellsouth, Cingular, & ATT Customers for 20 years. The past two years we’ve had major issues with our smartphones and ATT service not only at our home but all over the US in major cities. They have failed miserably in keeping their infrastructure in line with demand and their customer service is the worst I have ever experienced. When our contract is up for renewal in February we are switching to Verizon.

rick

April 24th, 2012
1:36 pm

AT&T couldn’t care less because if you read the article you’ll see the shareholders are happy. For now, things won’t change. But once that stock starts getting hammered, *THEN* you’ll see real change at AT&T. Too bad that’s a bit off for now (at least one quarter).

Bob from Accounttemps

April 24th, 2012
1:37 pm

@Butch – you’re right. I’ve been with ATT for years and have been generally satisfied (also have them for internet and TV). Waaaaay better than Comcast, byt the way. Calling and surfing on the iPhone at the same time is downplayed, but it’s important and I take advantage of that all the time. Truth is, ATT has been fine for us so no reason to switch. But, they continue to ratchet up data costs to the point where I may have to switch. And why am I paying for unlimited again?

Paulie

April 24th, 2012
1:37 pm

I’ve been with AT&T for 28 years, the last several of them absloutely miserable. Last year I went to the extreme of writing a letter to their supreme CEO’s home address in Dallas to outline my ongoing problems with their wireless phone, landline and DSL services. Regarding the latter, they have stated that they do not support the use of Microsoft products (or ANY third party software) on their Internet network – HUH??? Big surprise that they’ve gone from just not caring to being downright snarky and nasty. The ONLY thing they do well is billing – you can set an atomic clock by their asking for money in exchange for no service, always right on time. I’ve been refusing to pay for quite some time now (so far they just keep crediting my account), hoping that they’ll take legal action – luckily my spouse is an attorney – ENOUGH ALREADY! I want my day in court, which we’re hoping becomes a class action suit.

stevemwt

April 24th, 2012
1:37 pm

We purchased a “basic phone” off Ebay for my son because his phone no longer worked. Once he inserted his sim card I received a text from AT&T stating “we have added a data plan to your new phone”. I contact AT&T and find out “all smart phones require a data plan”. The rep told me that the phone we purchased previously was not considered a smartphone but AT&T has reclassified it. So without my approval or request AT&T is now charging me an additional $30/month when all I wanted was voice and texting. They will be losing this lifelong AT&T mobility customer very soon and the other three phones in my house as contracts expire. None of the carriers are perfect but the only way I can make any impact on AT&T is to fire them and apparently I am not alone.

rick

April 24th, 2012
1:37 pm

THIRTYITH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Carlos

April 24th, 2012
1:38 pm

ATT has just gotten too big. On paper, wireless is run out of Atlanta, but in reality, the whole comapny is run by an accountant in Dallas. He’s doing ok, though. Thanks for asking.

rick

April 24th, 2012
1:38 pm

HOLY SCHNIKES I GOT IT RIGHT.

Hmmmmmmm

April 24th, 2012
1:39 pm

I have to call EVERY month because of billing….. It’s a JOKE… I look forward to the day I am with Verizon….

rick

April 24th, 2012
1:39 pm

Except the spelling of “THIRTIETH”

Kwame Cascade

April 24th, 2012
1:40 pm

I’m moving away from AT&T because of the way I was mistreated while trying to resolve my UVERSE situation. Prior to getting UVERSE, customer service reps lying, screaming at customers, not cancelling customer accounts when you called to do that (which I think should be a crime) were just experiences others had. But UVERSE brought me into that club. I had the UVERSE bundle and a family cell phone plan with AT&T. The cell phones are all that’s left and that expires in less than a year. I refuse to resign with AT&T any time soon. I used to give AT&T > $400 /mo down to $0 in less than 3 years.

Chilly Willy

April 24th, 2012
1:40 pm

I have been a T Mobile customer for 13 years (going back to when they were Powertel and Voicestream) and very happy with their customer service and coverage. Their 4G Samsung smartphones are the best!

Chris

April 24th, 2012
1:42 pm

Guess I’ve been lucky. Never had connection problems with AT&T. Nor have I ever had to call AT&T for help with anything. I do think their online payment and account site is better designed and better functioning than most (don’t get me started on what Comcast has…).

Falcon Fan

April 24th, 2012
1:43 pm

The free At&t wifi @ Turner Field is terrible too! It doesn’t exist!

Goopedup

April 24th, 2012
1:45 pm

Lots of haters on this board, but most of what is written here is one-sided. AT&T sends you a $15 off coupon, READ THE FINE PRINT. $450 non-refundable deposit – not true, there has to be other circumstances we are not beign given. AT&T has it’s issues at times, but remember they are responsible for it all – the towers, the buried lines, the central offices that ultimate route EVERY call (regardless of it being wireless to wireless or who the provider is). That being said, they do a pretty good job. If t-mobile or verizon were so perfect, they’d have 80% or more of the market share between them.

Paulie

April 24th, 2012
1:46 pm

Follow-up – there’s a new Android app (we’ve been beta testing a version of it) that automatically evaluates the “quality” of provider networks that you happen to frequent in your normal travels. So far T Mobile and Verizon are the only real contenders I’m seeing – the app is showing AT&T dead last on all counts. Oh, yes – the Communications Workers of America may soon pull a strike against AT&T, and Yahoo (their e-mail provider) isn’t playing nice with them any more either. Trouble in paradise. Rough break.

Corinne

April 24th, 2012
1:48 pm

I’ve been with Verizon for several years now – I can ALWAYS get a signal and their customer service is fine. When I had AT&T, I often had trouble getting a signal – everyone around me would be talking on their cell phones and I’d be in a dead zone. They may have improved since then, but why take the chance? I know I’ve been able to get a Verizon signal when the people around me – who have AT&T or some other carrier – can’t.

Sunny

April 24th, 2012
1:51 pm

I’ve been with AT&T for nearly 15 years and while the customer service has improved, their signal strength is horrible for a major metropolitan area. On I-20 Eastbound, I COMPLETELY lose service from Hill St. to Candler Rd., among other areas — not a single bar in sight. I am contemplating switching over to Verizon simply for better signal strenght.

My wonderful new life

April 24th, 2012
1:53 pm

I jumped ship to TMobile last year, and what a wonderful experience it has been. ATT had horendous customer support. Never again.

Ernesto

April 24th, 2012
1:55 pm

Verizon and AT&T both have bad costumer service and they are expensive. I’ve been with Sprint now for a couple of years and I’m satisfied. I chose not to pay them for my iPad’s internet connection and I just got one with wifi.

collegedude

April 24th, 2012
2:02 pm

Sprint by far has the best plans/rates available & until that changes I will not change. Why would I change from Sprint to Verizon, ATT or anyone else to get less data/minutes at a higher price? People are insane to want to pay more. Sprint is not without its drawbacks, i.e. poor coverage away from the interstates in rural areas, but if you live in the city & rarely travel off of the main roadways across the country, then the only reason NOT to have Sprint is because you enjoy getting screwed over by the other cell companies.

Richard

April 24th, 2012
2:06 pm

Yeah as someone who has had T-Mobile and AT&T I’m so glad that merger didn’t go through . T-Mobile has been a much better experience . AT&T / Bellsouth’s “creative” billing was becoming unbearable . They don’t have customer service . Usually when I did complain about the same billing issue that they supposedly would take care of , but never did , they had the nerve to try and sell me other services every time . You can only treat your customers with contempt for so long . Even bundling can’t help AT&T anymore .

Cobb Carrier

April 24th, 2012
2:09 pm

I’ve had cell phones with all the big carriers and have recently switched to prepaid. What a relief! We used ATT years ago and left for poor customer service, switched to Verizon and left them for a better deal on smartphones and data with Sprint. Then dumped Sprint (who I consider to be the worst) because they changed our terms of service at least 3 times over two years, all to their benefit and our detriment. Sprint took away a coporate discount on two lines and continuously increased their fees. It feels great to be rid of a contract. We kept our smartphones and I use mine like an Ipod when I’m near free wi-fi spots. I went back to my flip phone and bought PagePlus Cellular service ($25 for 416 minutes good for 4 months) and am happy as a camper.

I own shares of ATT stock and I really should sell it and be rid of it. I’ve been a customer of their UVerse service which was ok but was a headache at the beginning when they argued over the fee for set top boxes. It took quite a bit of letter writing to corporate headquarters to get it straight. We recently dumped UVerser for Netflix, an over-the-air antenna, and a Roku device. We now pay $7.99 per month and spent a one-time $160 for equipment. It’s a great feeling to be rid of the cable bill! We kept there internet service because it’s been pretty good.

We cut our cable bill by $65 and our cell phones bill by $120 per month. We just bought a nice used car with the savings!

Carole

April 24th, 2012
2:12 pm

Goopedup
That being said, they do a pretty good job. If t-mobile or verizon were so perfect, they’d have 80% or more of the market share between them.
+++++
They probably would if people weren’t locked into contracts. I almost paid the early termination fee just to get out of mine.

Andy

April 24th, 2012
2:13 pm

While ATT leaves a lot to be desired, unlike Verizon, ATT actually has great 4G service up here in the GA mtns. Sprint is non-existent and Verizon is 3G.

BDK

April 24th, 2012
2:16 pm

I have a bundle with AT&T and am always calling them about billing. I can count on spending one hour with them everytime I call. And if there is a better bundle advertised, I am not eligible to switch to it as I am already in a bundle. I have more than satisfied my 2 yr contract with them on my cell phone. Thanks for the article. I will be checking out vorizons products very soon.