Are AT&T and Verizon Discouraging Apple iPhone Sales?

Maybe the idea wasn't isolated to just Verizon (NYSE:VZ), but a new scuttlebutt has come on the scene that is similar to a months-old report from Verizon, that now AT&T (NYSE:T) is working hard to actually discourage iPhone sales. AT&T reported its Apple iPhone sales dropped 14 percent from the previous quarter, but some had believed that it was the typical wind-down leading up to the release of a new iPhone model. But if this story is somewhat accurate, the slowdown may actually more deliberate than believed.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

This latest claim apparently comes from several sources (who are unnamed) that the corporate office at AT&T headquarters sent memos to their sales staff that whenever a customer comes into a store looking for a smartphone, they were to be led away from the iPhone and towards Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android or Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows phones. And even if someone came into a store specifically looking for an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4 or 4S, sales staff were told to show customers an Android and/or Windows phone as well so customers could "make an informed decision."

What could be the motivation for this, when iPhone accounted for 72 percent of all smartphone activations by the company in the last quarter? Well, Verizon was allegedly doing the same thing before, but there may be two different reasons. In Verizon's case, tt could have been due to its desire to get more people activated on their 4G LTE network, which iPhones don't support and Androids and Windows do. For At&T, though, it could be just about money - the company recently expressed a desire to cut down on subsidy expenses as part of overhead, and iPhones are notorious for their high subsidy costs.

Of course, AT&T denies doing any such directing of customers. In an e-mail statement, the company said, "The idea that we would steer any customer away from a particular device couldn’t be more farfetched.  Our reps do what it takes to align customer needs with the best device for them.  iPhone remains one of our most popular devices, which doesn’t happen by steering people away from it. Our reps are encouraged to try all devices so they are more knowledgeable on our industry-leading smartphone lineup."

Well, that should discourage any further talk, shouldn't it?

In any event, with iPhone sales dropping, whether intentional or not, this item is certainly once to watch for Apple watchers.

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