Apple has announced fewer than a dozen new wireless-service providers to sell the device since September 2011, leaving the total at about 240. Holdouts represent billions of would-be subscribers in countries such as China, Japan, India and Russia, said Horace Dediu, a market analyst who runs Asymco.com. Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), Apple’s biggest smartphone rival, sells devices through almost all of the world’s 800 carriers, Asymco said.
China Mobile Ltd. (941), the world’s biggest phone company, and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (9437), Japan’s largest mobile carrier, are among providers that haven’t agreed to carry the iPhone, citing the high costs of subsidies needed to make the device affordable or other terms they find unacceptable. The slowdown in adding new partners is contributing to stagnating iPhone sales growth, giving Samsung-led competitors a potential advantage and putting pressure on Apple to deliver a cheaper device or make other margin-threatening concessions.
“The narrative has been focused on the consumer demand, and the narrative needs to shift to the operator,” said Dediu, a former in-house analyst for Nokia Oyj. (NOK1V) “Apple has run out of the kinds of operators that will say yes to them.”