Through the first three quarters of the year, AT&T reported that it has sold 16.7 million smartphones.
Jones does the math and concludes that AT&T will sell 9.3 million smartphones in the fourth quarter. Last year, AT&T said it sold 9.4 million smartphones in the fourth quarter.
If AT&T's smartphone sales are down, then it suggests bad news for Apple, which last quarter accounted for ~77% of smartphone sales at AT&T.
It suggests that Apple, despite launching a brand new iPhone will have flat sales at AT&T.
Before people get too worried about Apple, there are a few things to consider here.
One, De La Vega could be sandbagging here. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek thinks AT&T surprises everyone with 10 million smartphones sold in the fourth quarter. This makes sense, because if it sold 6.4 million smartphones in the first two months of the quarter, sales would fall in December, which makes no sense since people are buying lots of presents.
Two, Verizon could have stolen a lot of iPhone users this quarter. My wife and I, for instance, finally ditched AT&T for Verizon. It's possible others did the same. If the AT&T sales are down, they could just be transferred to Verizon.
Three, the iPhone 5 launch was international. If AT&T sales are down or flat, it doesn't necessarily mean Apple's worldwide sales are flat.
All that said, Apple was expected to sell 46-53 million iPhones this quarter. If it's coming up lame at AT&T, it makes it that much harder to beat expectations.
We reached out to AT&T for a comment. It declined.