Dish, AT&T unveil aggressive iPhone promotions

'AT&T remains most aggressive on its device offers,' noted the TD Cowen analysts. Dish, meantime, said Boost Infinite customers can get the new Apple iPhone 15 for no extra fee and no trade in.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

September 13, 2023

5 Min Read
Apple iPhone 15 (Source: Apple)
(Source: Apple)

Dish Network and AT&T are providing relatively competitive pricing around Apple's new iPhones. Meanwhile, Verizon and T-Mobile are in general trying to encourage new iPhone customers to purchase their more expensive service plans in a bid to raise their revenues.

The nation's cable companies, meanwhile, have remained relatively silent on the topic. That's not necessarily a surprise though considering they have been increasingly successful with their inexpensive mobile service pricing and bundling promotions.

"AT&T remains most aggressive on its device offers highlighted by free iPhones (up to $1,000 with trade-in) for new and existing customers while not requiring higher-end plans. We continue to view AT&T as relying more on device promotions rather than relying on its network for gross adds and churn as the company meaningfully lags the Big 3 in 5G midband coverage," wrote the analysts at TD Cowen in a note to investors following the release of Apple's iPhone 15.

Indeed, analysts have previously cautioned that there's a "lack of urgency" around AT&T's midband 5G buildout.

The TD Cowen analysts continued: "T-Mobile looks to be second most aggressive [with iPhone promotions], with a similar offer to AT&T, but requires top tier plans ... Verizon is the least aggressive of the Big 3, with less attractive offers on the higher-end devices."

Dish, meanwhile, said Boost Infinite customers who sign up for its new $60 per month service plan can get the new Apple iPhone 15 for no extra fee. Importantly, Dish's offer does not require customers to trade in an existing device – meaning that Dish won't offset the cost of a $1,000 iPhone 15 with a customer's trade-in.

"This is a true, first of its kind wireless offering for customers that doesn't require a trade-in to get started," wrote Jeremy McCarty, head of Boost Infinite, on LinkedIn.

Boost Infinite costs around $25 per month for customers who don't get a new iPhone.

The details

In general, analysts cheered the carriers' new iPhone promotions. "These higher-priced offers, along with recent price hikes of legacy plans, are a testament to the health and rationalization of the overall wireless marketplace," wrote the TD Cowen analysts. They argued that the new promotions won't sacrifice profits for market share – a key concern on Wall Street.

In general, shares of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have tumbled in recent months over investor fears about a shrinking pool of new wireless customers. Those concerns have been exacerbated by cable companies like Charter Communications and Comcast, which have introduced extremely cheap mobile service plans backed by their respective home Internet offerings.

In response, mobile network operators like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have been raising prices and fees. They have also been working to move customers onto newer, more expensive service plans.

For Verizon and T-Mobile, their newest iPhone promotions track alongside those efforts. For example, Verizon is reserving its best iPhone promotions for customers who sign up for its new Unlimited Ultimate plan, the operator's most expensive service plan. Similarly, T-Mobile's most enticing iPhone promotions are only available to customers who sign up for its new Go5G Plus plan, the operator's most expensive option.

AT&T, meanwhile, continues to offer its promotions to all customers, regardless of the plan they choose and irrespective of whether they are a new customer or an existing customer.

As for Dish, the company's new Infinite Access for iPhone plan costs $60 per month and will offer customers a new iPhone every year at no extra cost. "This offer is available for new and existing members, and no trade-ins or line requirements are needed to get started. With iPhone 15, it's the perfect time to join Boost Infinite," the company wrote in a release.

The offer finally brings the Apple iPhone onto Dish's Boost Infinite brand, and it signals Dish's intention to compete more directly with its bigger rivals. That's important considering Dish has struggled to shore up its finances amid heavy losses in its mobile customer base.

iPhone tidbits

Apple's annual iPhone release typically represents a major event on the US wireless industry's calendar. The gadget often spurs shoppers to re-evaluate their wireless provider – and to potentially switch to another provider. Thus, operators typically deploy their most aggressive promotions in the fall to take advantage of iPhone aficionados and the holiday shopping season overall.

However, most analysts agree that this year's iPhone may not spark much interest among shoppers considering it mostly offers the same features and functions as past models.

However, there are a few noteworthy items in the gadget that might be of interest to those in the wireless industry. For example, Apple said it would launch a new service, Roadside Assistance via satellite, in partnership with AAA. The service presumably uses Globalstar's satellites, and represents a further expansion by Apple into the satellite services market.

Separately, Apple again eschewed the millimeter wave (mmWave) flavor of 5G in its international iPhone models. The company continues to support mmWave only in its models bound for the US market.

That stance represents a major setback for companies like Qualcomm that continue to work to encourage carriers to deploy networks in mmWave spectrum.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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