The iPhone may command a higher carrier subsidy than its typical Android rival. It may eat into operators’ profit margins when sales volumes spike after the debut of a new model. But it also generates more in carrier fees than any other smartphone.
According to new data shared with AllThingsD by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), the average monthly carrier bill of the typical iPhone user is the highest in the smartphone market. iPhone owners spend more on wireless fees than owners of any other handset, be they Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone.
Almost 60 percent of the iPhone users CIRP polled during October-December 2012 spent more than $100 per month on their wireless plan, with 10 percent spending $200 or more. Just 6 percent spent $50 or less; for Android users in that category, the percentage was double. And only 53 percent of Android users fell into the “over $100 per month” category, with 7 percent landing in the “over $200 per month” category.
Not vast differences, but significant — particularly when carriers like AT&T and Verizon are activating millions of smartphones per quarter.
Why do iPhone customers spend more?
“We think it has to do with their data plans and carriers, rather than their usage habits,” CIRP co-founder Michael Levin explained. “They are all on expensive data plans, unlike Android users, some of which are on prepaid or unsubsidized plans with regional carriers.”
That said, just because iPhone users on average spend more on their wireless plans doesn’t necessarily mean that the carriers are making more money.
“Given the subsidies on iPhones, the carriers are working hard to make their money back during the course of the contract,” said CIRP’s Josh Levitz. “With the exception of perhaps the hottest Android phones, we think the subsidies on Android phones are lower, so the carriers make more money even with slightly lower per subscriber revenue.”
Incidentally, as part of this survey, CIRP also took a look at consumer retention by operating system and found that in terms of smartphone stickiness, iOS and Android are the stickiest by far. For the survey period, the research house noted that 88 percent of iPhone activations it charted were from prior iPhone users, while 64 percent of Android device activations were from prior Android owners. Just 7 percent of Blackberry users and 9 percent of Windows Phone users reported sticking with those operating systems.