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AT&T reportedly ordered staff to push anything but iPhone

August 1, 2012

A few days ago, we showed you AT&T’s earnings report for the second quarter of the year. In its press release announcing the official numbers for the period, the second largest carrier in the U.S. stressed the sales and subscriber growth in the smartphone sector, announcing that it has sold 5.1 million smartphones in Q2, with 3.7 million of them being iPhones. At the time we noted that the carrier did not mention any other smartphone except for the iPhone in its official documents.

That’s not surprising considering that AT&T had an exclusive arrangement with Apple to sell the iPhone in the region that lasted until early 2011 when Verizon became the second U.S. mobile operator to get the iOS device.

But it looks like AT&T is not happy with so many of its mobile subscribers choosing an iPhone. In fact, BGR reports that the company has ordered its employees to try to push potential smartphone buyers into buying anything but the iPhone:

Regional retail sales managers at AT&T have been instructing store managers to pump the brakes on Apple’s iPhone. Instructions handed down from corporate state that customers seeking smartphones at AT&T retail stores should be steered away from Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and towards Android phones or Windows Phone handsets like the Nokia Lumia 900 instead. BGR has confirmed the directive with three independent sources.

Apparently AT&T has used this strategy for a while now to lower the iPhone market share related to its overall smartphone sales, although the carrier is yet to comment on the matter.

According to existing reports, AT&T staff is required to show new customers Android and Windows Phone options even if they specifically come in to purchase an iPhone model – AT&T is the only U.S. carrier to stock three different iPhone versions including the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Even AT&T employees are not instructed to get an Android or Windows Phone as a company handset instead of an iPhone.

Why is AT&T trying to divert attention from the iPhone? Simply put, Apple’s smartphone is a high-priced commodity for carriers. They can’t afford not to offer it to their subscribers, but they also aren’t happy with the high price of the device, not to mention the fact that the handset does not come with any carrier custom apps on board. So AT&T is basically left out of the picture, as the company doesn’t have a say in what happens with the iPhone, hardware- or software-wise.

This is the second iPhone-related controversial decision AT&T is apparently taking – only recently the mobile operator was rumored to charge users separately for FaceTime over 3G/4G video calls – so we’re certainly interested to see how this story develops. We expect reactions from both Apple and AT&T and we’re definitely looking forward to see AT&T’s Q3 2012 earnings report which will show whether the iPhone’s share of overall AT&T smartphone sales will drop or not following this internal directive.

Let’s also not forget that Apple is rumored to launch the iPhone 5 (sixth-generation handset) in mid-September, which could also have an important impact on iPhone sales during the quarter.

Have you purchased an Android smartphone following an AT&T staffer’s advice to ignore the iPhone in favor of a different option?