We've got some harsh news for AT&T, courtesy of a research note from Citigroup. The note warns that the expansion of the US mobile market is rapidly coming to a halt. The main cause; everyone has a cell phone these days.
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Growth of the cellular market is simply reaching the point where it can grow no more. The only huge growth market in the industry right now is the smartphone market, and that will only continue to grow until everybody has a smartphone. Citigroup concluded that the American wireless industry is likely to see growth of just 1-3% a year from now on.
For Apple, this news means they are running out of time to expand. The iPhone has succeeded until now because it was one of the first true smartphones, and because it had the Apple name behind it. Many of AT&T's current customers are only there for the iPhone; it is expected to make up 18% of the company's base by 2010.
Unfortunately, for Apple the deal with AT&T has already begun to sour. BlackBerry is beating them in sales, primarily due to the fact that they launched their Blackberry Curve on multiple carriers. Less carriers selling the iPhone means less iPhones on the market altogether. AppleInsider cites estimates that Apple selling the iPhone with Verizon as well would increase their customer base from 17 million to 30 million.
Apple has to grab as many loyal customers for the iPhone as it can right now. The market is still open and expanding, and they won't have this chance again. Once the market hits that wall, the number and variety of smartphones on the market is going to drop. The mobile market as a whole is about to enter one hell of a contraction phase, and only the strong phones are going to be left standing after the dust clears.