AT&T iPhone Price Increases Put it at a Disadvantage in the Carrier Promotion Battle

  • Postpaid iPhone promotions in the US were generally very competitive in Q1 2024, with carriers offering similar deals on the iPhone 14 and 15 series.
  • In the second week of January, AT&T ended some holiday promotions and increased prices for many iPhone 14 and 15 series models.
  • We think AT&T faces some risk of underperforming for the quarter relative to competitors in part due to these softening iPhone deals and lack of high-value device promotions.

At the start of Q1 2024, postpaid iPhone promotions in the US were very competitive, with carriers offering similar deals on iPhone 15 and 14 series devices. All carriers have had offers to get the iPhone 15 Pro for free and the iPhone 15 Pro Max for $199.99 since device launch. In the case of Verizon and T-Mobile, promotions remained consistent throughout the quarter, with the two offering most of the same deals at the end of the quarter as they did at the turn of the new year.

However, in the second week of January, AT&T ended holiday promotions and increased prices for the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, and 3rd Generation iPhone SE. During the holiday season, the big three carriers all had deals to get the iPhone 15 for free, but after the promo change, AT&T’s best offer for the iPhone 15 stood at $129.99.

iPhone 15 Series Pricing at AT&T, Weeks 1-12 of 2024 (In $)

Source: Counterpoint’s Weekly Promotions Tracker File

*Data based on best available promos

In February, AT&T further increased the price of the iPhone 15 Plus to $395.64 with the purchase of a new line. There are currently no listed trade-in deals for the model. AT&T has had the highest price for this device since launch, where its best offer was $99.99. T-Mobile and Verizon both had, and still have, deals to get it for free. For many customers looking to trade in a device, it is cheaper to get an iPhone 15 Pro Max at AT&T than it is to get an iPhone 15 Plus. This could be affecting the sales of the Plus model at AT&T stores.

AT&T Best Offer for iPhone Devices, Weeks 1-13 of 2024

ATT best offer for iPhone devices, week 1 to 13 of 2024

Source: Counterpoint’s Weekly Promotions Tracker File

At Verizon and T-Mobile, iPhone pricing has remained consistent. All Apple devices are priced the same as they were at the start of 2024, with the exception of the iPhone 14 Pro Max. T-Mobile lowered the cost of the 14 Pro Max by $99.99, offering it for free with a trade on a Go5G Next plan.

iPhone 15 Minimum Prices at Big 3 Carriers, Week 12 of 2024

iPhone 15 minimum prices at Big 3 carriers

Source: Counterpoint’s Weekly Promotions Tracker File

The current iPhone promotion landscape for carriers is very competitive, with T-Mobile and Verizon offering promotions of similar types and values. Most of the recent promotional changes have been price increases at AT&T, which has distanced it from the other two carriers. It is either maintaining the status quo with the other carriers or falling behind in terms of minimum cost for Apple devices. This could impact its subscriber retention and addition.

The main thing AT&T has going for it is that its deals are universal. Almost all AT&T device promotions apply to both existing and new customers, whereas there are sometimes specific requirements customers have to meet to get better promos at other carriers. For example, AT&T has the 3rd Generation iPhone SE listed on its website for $71.64 (or $1.99 per month) after discount with the purchase of a new line. T-Mobile offers the device for free with the purchase of a new line and trade-in of an old device. But without the trade-in aspect of the deal, T-Mobile is selling the device for $215 with the purchase of a new line. So, when comparing similar deals, AT&T’s prices are actually very competitive. However, it only offers one standard deal on most devices while T-Mobile and Verizon often have 3-5 different promotions for a particular model. Therefore, it is important for consumers to read the details of these promotions. Some of the deals on T-Mobile and Verizon’s websites will look very strong, but may only be available for specific plans and customers, or require trade-ins. In contrast, AT&T often boasts more modest discounts, which tend to apply to a wider range of buyers.

We think AT&T faces some risk of underperforming for the quarter relative to competitors in part due to these softening iPhone deals and lack of high-value device promotions. In Q4 2023, AT&T executives described the company’s device promotions as “disciplined” while labeling competitors’ promotions as “rich”. The carrier was proud that it was able to out-add Verizon despite these weaker promotions. But this may not be duplicatable in Q1, especially due to the additional customers AT&T likely lost following its network outage on February 22, along with the fact that a lot of iPhone promos at AT&T are weaker than they were in Q4 when compared to the competition.

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