Domestic carrier iPhone activations have proven to be a useful tool for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) investors. The figures are inexact on a quarterly basis, which became apparent after Apple directly disclosed domestic iPhone sales for the first time ever last year in a court filing. However, in the long term, the differences smooth out and the discrepancy averages out to about just 1%, so the aggregate total of carrier activations does provide a fairly good proxy for domestic iPhone sales.
Investors can no longer count on getting this useful data point, as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s biggest domestic carrier partner has just decided to stop showing Apple’s cards. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) will no longer disclose iPhone activations. It had provided the digits for years.
Ma Bell did say last night that it activated an impressive 6.8 million total smartphones, a notable increase sequentially from the 6 million activated last quarter. When pressed about the mix on the conference call, CFO John Stephens said, “Our smartphone sales of 6.8 million, and I think we have disclosed that we had a record Android sales, but we are not giving the specific iPhone number.”
In comparison, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) Wireless provided iPhone figures last week, and Big Red’s 3.8 million iPhones (out of 7.5 million total smartphones) were the first indication that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) would report strong iPhone units this quarter. Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) reports later this month, and it’s unclear whether or not the No. 3 carrier will disclose iPhone units.
Leap Wireless International, Inc. (NASDAQ:LEAP) got the iPhone last year, but has never disclosed units. Leap Wireless International, Inc. (NASDAQ:LEAP) is in the process of being acquired by AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), even as it’s short on its iPhone purchase commitment with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).
T MOBILE US INC (NYSE:TMUS) also just got the iPhone last quarter, and reported some early figures in its first release after closing its merger with MetroPCS. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) mobile chief Ralph de la Vega did acknowledge that the company saw slowing iPhone sales as a result of T MOBILE US INC (NYSE:TMUS) getting the iPhone, much like it saw before when Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) added the device to their lineups.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s new lack of disclosure is particularly frustrating since the carrier activates the most iPhones domestically. Without AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), investors will have a much harder time gleaning information on how the iPhone is doing stateside.
The article AT&T Stops Showing Apple’s Cards originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Evan Niu, CFA.
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