Apple added Sprint as the third major U.S. carrier to support the iPhone back in October last year, when the iPhone 4S launched. The carrier didn’t have a huge subscriber base as compared to Verizon and AT&T, and the iPhone was Sprint’s big bet to regain a chunk of the marke tshare that it had lost over time to the other two carriers.
A new study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), based on surveys of iPhone buyers over a three month period, doesn’t reveal very pleasing stats for Sprint.
The study, which was shared with AllThingsD, reveals that Sprint accounts for just 12 percent of the total iPhones sold across the three major U.S. networks. AT&T leads the pack with 62 percent share, followed by Verizon which accounts for 26 percent of the total iPhone sales.
What’s intriguing is the further breakdown of Sprint’s share of iPhone sales according to stores. While AT&T and Verizon have consistent iPhone sales percentages across Apple Stores, Best Buy outlets and other retailers, there’s a huge disparity in Sprint’s numbers.
In Apple Stores, Sprint iPhones make up just 9 percent of the total iPhones sold, as compared to a figure of 19 percent and 18 percent in Best Buy and big box retailers respectively. If you’ve done the math quick enough, that’s double the sales share.
What’s the reason behind this? AllThingsD has a possible answer:
Legacy availability. AT&T and Verizon both have a lot of iPhone-using customers and very high retention rates; CIRP figures those two carriers retained 94 percent of their existing customers that bought an iPhone. In other words, if you bought an iPhone from Apple on AT&T or Verizon and you return to the store to buy another, you’re not likely to switch carriers. And since Apple Stores have sold only AT&T and Verizon iPhones for so long, Sprint’s seeing a bit less traction there than it is at retailers like Best Buy, where it has had a longer-term presence.
Sprint has a tough task up its hands. It has to convince subscribers on competing networks to break from their recurring contracts, while at the same time ensure that none of its customers switch to other networks. This is exactly the reason why it is one of the few U.S. carriers that continues to offer an unlimited data plan for smartphones, including the upcoming iPhone.