Almost No One Signed Up for AT&T Cell Service After They Lost the iPhone Exclusive

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When the iPhone debuted exclusively on AT&T's network in 2008, the world's best-known phone proved to be a boon for business. Even though many customers, myself included, complained about AT&T's service, particularly in the nation's big metro areas, we stuck with AT&T because we liked the iPhone. So, when Apple teamed up with Verizon to start offering the iPhone on Verizon's network earlier this year, analysts worried what it might do to AT&T's business.

With the release of their results from last quarter today, now we know. The picture isn't pretty, despite an AT&T representative calling the competition from Verizon "overblown." Last year during the first quarter of the calendar year, AT&T added 512,000 new subscribers. This year, after you subtract out tablet signups to compare apples-to-apples, AT&T added just 4,000 new net subscribers. That is to say, almost no one wanted to sign up for a new AT&T phone contract in the last three months. Update: It is important to note that AT&T experienced strong growth in other "connected devices" like Amazon Kindles, which also run on the company's cell network.

I think the fact remains, though, that company's growth in its bread-and-butter cell phone service business stalled after it lost iPhone exclusivity. To satisfy Wall Street, the company's will have to stay focused on pushing through its acquisition of T-Mobile, which is sure to face intense government scrutiny.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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