Verizon customers lust for iPhone, says survey

Pent-up demand will add millions more iPhones in 2011, analyst says

Verizon subscribers would jump at the chance to have an iPhone, with more than half of those surveyed saying they would likely switch to an Apple handset, a recently-released poll said.

Saying that there is "an unprecedented level of pent-up demand for the iPhone among Verizon subscribers," Rockville, Md.-based market research firm ChangeWave said its survey of more than 4,000 consumers pegged Verizon as the U.S. carrier most likely to reap massive rewards if Apple opens up the iPhone to other providers.

Of those polled who are currently Verizon subscribers, 19% said they were "very likely" to buy an iPhone if it became available to the carrier, with another 34% answering that they were "somewhat likely" to buy. Both numbers were higher than those for either Sprint or T-Mobile subscribers.

"If Verizon were ever to offer the iPhone, the evidence points to it having a profound and likely transformative impact on the industry," ChangeWave's report of last week said.

Brian Marshall, a financial analyst with BroadPoint AmTech who tracks Apple , agreed. "I think the upside for Verizon [and the iPhone] is tremendous," he said today. "If Verizon gets the iPhone in the March 2011 timeframe, as I expect, Verizon will sell at least 11 million iPhones in the calendar year."

ChangeWave also asked U.S. consumers their opinions of their mobile carriers, whether they planned to switch carriers within the next 90 days, and how many dropped calls they'd encountered in the last three months.

Perhaps surprising to some, only 8% of the consumers now using AT&T said they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to switch, significantly fewer than said the same for Sprint (10%) and T-Mobile (14%). ChangeWave credited the lower percentage of AT&T users looking to change to the iPhone lock-in.

"AT&T's low churn rate -- despite its relatively poor Very Satisfied rating and its high percentage of dropped calls -- is attributable to the huge advantage it continues to maintain as the exclusive U.S. service provider for the Apple iPhone," the market research company said. While 45% of the survey respondents who use Verizon told ChangeWave that they were "very satisfied" with their service, only 15% of those subscribing to AT&T said the same.

Marshall agreed. "AT&T is God-awful," he said. "But what people are saying is 'Don't take away my iPhone.'"

ChangeWave's survey results on dropped calls buttress the complaints made by iPhone users since Apple introduced the smartphone: AT&T's network performance is sub-standard. According to ChangeWave, 4.5% of those polled who use AT&T reported dropped calls in the last 90 days, the highest number of any of the four major U.S. providers. Only 1.5% of Verizon subscribers, for instance, said that they'd experienced dropped calls in the same period.

AT&T has been hammered on the issue unfairly, some have said, pointing out that no other U.S. carrier has had to handle the massive data demand that iPhone users produce. That hasn't stopped users from complaining, or in some cases, from filing lawsuits against the mobile provider. It's possible, say the pro-AT&T commentators, that any carrier, Verizon included, would drop calls and suffer from poor network performance if it also sold the iPhone.

ChangeWave's report on its March wireless survey can be downloaded from the company's site ( download PDF )

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Knowledge Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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