It's a three-way battle in the US for the iPhone and AT&T is keeping its lead as the #1 iPhone carrier, says data from analytics firm Localytics. Localytics collects device and carrier information from 1,500 mobile applications including those from Skype, Turner Broadcasting and News Corporation.
The most recent data shows that AT&T accounts for 56% of iPhone 4S handsets on its network of applications. Verizon is in second with 32%, a surprisingly high percentage for a carrier that's only had the iPhone for less than a year. All those who bought the iPhone 4 earlier this year are still under contract which suggests most 4S owners are new Verizon iPhone owners who waited for the 4S. Sprint, which just launched the iPhone on its network in October with the 4S, accounts for 12% of Localytics measured traffic.
AT&T is also the leader for the iPhone 4 with 60% of the iPhone 4 traffic, a number that is down slightly from the 68% recorded earlier this year. This dominance is expected as AT&T has sold the iPhone almost twice as long as Verizon. AT&T started carrying the iPhone 4 sixteen months ago in June 2010 and is selling millions each quarter. Verizon is also selling millions each quarter, but it introduced the handset a relatively short nine months ago.
Time is only one factor helping AT&T keep its lead. A higher-than-expected retention rate is also contributing to AT&T's dominance. Even though AT&T customers could switch to Verizon (and now Sprint), many are choosing to stay with the carrier, despite its network woes. Localytics believes AT&T is aggressively targeting customers who are at the end of their contract and enticing them to upgrade instead of leave.
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.