Smartphone buyers may be slow to see how Apple’s new iPhones with 5G support improve the Internet connections used by older models, but mobile phone operators are working hard to make them see it.
AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. used the presentation of the iPhone this week as an opportunity to entice customers who still do not understand or are not interested in the fifth-generation cellular standard. The four new iPhone models are equipped with technology that moves information through the air faster and in a larger volume than before.
Advertising campaigns are driven by both economics and technology. Most Americans already own a smartphone or two, so customer supplements usually come at the expense of the competitor. The three major mobile network operators have begun to build their 5G networks differently, offering them a rare chance to hawk something unique ̵
“Networks are different for the first time,” said Cliff Maldonado, chief analyst at BayStreet Research. “5G is the perfect time to justify switching carriers.”
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Verizon, which has long relied on its position and market share number 1, has launched 5G installations in cities and is now playing catch-up in rural areas. T-Mobile, a relatively small urban carrier a decade ago, is now the second largest provider in the United States and is advertising its 5G expansion in rural areas. And AT&T, unfamiliar with discounts, this week presented aggressive savings offers that mimic some of the language in T-Mobile’s old ads.
Each provider relies on 5G to gain an advantage while customers buy new phones. Switching phones is the most common time for operators to gain or lose a subscriber.
The fight for customers among the operators will benefit Apple, paying even more attention to the device. Apple investors are already betting that the arrival of the iPhone 12 will reverse the latest trends for the company, which saw peak unit sales in its fiscal 2015 with the first big-screen version.
Investors have pushed the company’s market value to $ 2 trillion with the belief that the new technology, which is designed to improve the quality of video chats, online games and emerging augmented reality features, will motivate customers to upgrade.
T-Mobile US, historically quick to offer deep discounts, is focusing this week on the speed and affordability of its 5G network. Bellevue, Washington, strengthened its system with assets acquired by Sprint earlier this year.
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T-Mobile chief of technology Neville Ray said Verizon’s early investment in faster millimeter-wave service, which typically covers very small areas, would disappoint Verizon customers who “have to go in search of treasure to find those 5G speeds. “
On Tuesday, Verizon expanded its list of areas covered by these high-frequency signals, which support the fastest download on the market, but rarely travel more than a few hundred yards. The carrier relies more heavily than its competitors on “dynamic spectrum sharing” to spread this coverage beyond these hotspots.
The use of spectrum sharing technology allows network operators to mix older 4G signals with new 5G broadcasts within the same radio channel. This is a trade-off that improves coverage at the expense of ultra-fast download speeds.
The importance of the US market was highlighted on Tuesday when Verizon CEO Hans Westberg joined Apple executives to promote the new devices. The American iPhone 12 models are the only Apple phones that support millimeter-wave traffic.
Verizon consumer chief executive Ronan Dunn said the frequencies would only improve the core 5G service available to customers across the country. The millimeter-wave service is only included in the operator’s premium plan, although Mr Dunne said all 5G phones will have improved connections to the Verizon network.
AT&T’s top offer for price-focused customers. A promotion released on Tuesday offers new and existing customers a free iPhone if they use a plan for unlimited data and trade some older smartphones.
The company’s presentation in Dallas said the deals were “uncomplicated” wireless upgrades, reflecting “unbearable” events that were once the backbone of T-Mobile’s advertising campaigns. Similar suggestions apply to Samsung’s new phones.
The expensive promotion – the iPhone 12 Pro Max sells for $ 1,099 in the US – still benefits AT&T by giving subscribers a reason to stick to the service while the carrier covers its fees for 30 months. It also helps the media and telecommunications company focus on more products, such as its HBO Max streaming service, to customer plans. The AT&T promotion can apply to up to 25 million customers, said Roger Enter of telecommunications researcher Recon Analytics Inc.
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T-Mobile responded on Wednesday with several promotions, including up to $ 500 from new iPhone 12 models for certain customers. Verizon topped Apple’s event on Tuesday with its own free iPhone offering for some new customers and deep discounts for existing subscribers.
Discounts carry hidden costs: Each offer directs customers to more expensive plans for unlimited data of operators. The approach is reminiscent of the old subsidy model, which fueled the rise of the iPhone more than a decade ago, when vendors regularly covered the cost of new Apple devices in exchange for two or more reliable revenues from contract customers.
The momentum in phone sales has slowed in recent years as customers in many markets wait longer to upgrade their smartphones.
Wave7 Research analyst Jeff Moore said older iPhones and Android phones could provide a sustained search for something new, but it won’t be 5G technology to open the door.
“5G will definitely be a major component of the hype for the launch of the iPhone 12,” said Mr Moore. “Will it radically change the way you interact with your smartphone? No. 5G is not so revolutionary.”
Kevin Haddad, 69, who lives near Los Angeles, said he was not ready to upgrade his phone because there are too few apps and services that take advantage of the technology. “If there are services that I need and want because my phone has been working for three years now, I will be open to upgrading,” he said.
Until then, he said he was sticking to his current device and wireless operator AT&T. “The reason I stuck to AT&T in the first place was that they were the only supplier in my area,” he said. “And that’s why I got my first iPhone. I was with AT&T. But I don’t know. I don’t plan to switch. I don’t like change anymore.”
– Donald Morrison contributed to this article.