Would the iPhone rule the world if Apple broke AT&T exclusivity?

The Apple iPhone took the smartphone world by storm 3 years ago, but seems to have hit a stagnant point as the device is only available on a single US wireless carrier. This exclusivity is seen in only one out of the six major smartphone platforms. Is it time for Apple to add more carriers?

Jason Hiner wrote up a good article discussing the current state of smartphone platforms and wondering if Android was going to turn into the Windows of the smartphone world. As Jason pointed out Nokia and RIM still rule the world in market share, but not in mind share as Google Android and Apple iPhone powered devices seem to grab all the recent headlines and generate the most excitement. I agree with him that we will continue to see most, if not all, of the current smartphone operating systems (Symbian, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android, BlackBerry, webOS) survive in varying levels, but the article did make me think of one key factor in this list that may be holding back one mobile operating system from jumping to the top of the heap and taking the world by storm. Out of these existing six major smartphone operating systems, it is ONLY Apple that has their devices out on a SINGLE US wireless carrier. For the rest you can find devices running their operating systems on at least two and up to four of the major US wireless carriers.

I tried in the past to switch my family to AT&T, but the daily dropped calls were unacceptable. Coworkers with iPhones say that they rarely make phone calls and send text and email instead because calls drop all the time. Apple has helped AT&T bring in and keep customers who are not even happy with their service, but find the device and operating so compelling that they are willing to put up with substandard service. There are rumors that Verizon may eventually get the iPhone and hopes that Sprint and T-Mobile may even see some iPhone love, but I have a tough time believing we will see an iPhone outside of AT&T until at least 2011. I hope that I am wrong, but we will have to wait until 7 June to find out anything more about that.

I do have an iPhone 3GS at the moment, but I unlocked it to use it on T-Mobile and have not had a dropped call with it yet. This is the same device that was dropping calls on AT&T all the time so it is not a hardware issue. I know I personally would jump all over an iPhone on T-Mobile and may even pick one up on Verizon or Sprint if the pricing plans were right. I highly suspect I am not alone here and know the iPhone would sell like hotcakes on other carriers too. Here are some questions I have about this whole Apple and AT&T exclusivity:

  1. Is Apple really satisfied with AT&T as their only partner?
  2. Can't Apple see that they would probably jump to 50%+ of the US market share if they rolled out across all four major carriers?
  3. Will we ever see the iPhone on another carrier?

Google Android news dominates the headlines today and IMHO the hardware from HTC and software from Google have now bested the iPhone in the smartphone game. Granted, Apple may reveal something amazing in a couple of weeks in an attempt to reclaim the top, but I don't think what we saw with the iPhone 4 update is enough to do it alone. The Google Android 2.2 update brings several improvements to that platform and Google and manufacturers are not sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what Apple may do. If the new iPhone does have video conferencing capability and Apple sticks with just AT&T I have major concerns that the network will be dragged down even further into the abyss.

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