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AT&T Still Seeking Exclusive Devices as IPhone Deal’s End Looms

AT&T activated 5.2 million iPhones last quarter. Photographer Rupert Hartley/Bloomberg
AT&T activated 5.2 million iPhones last quarter. Photographer Rupert Hartley/Bloomberg

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc., the sole U.S. wireless carrier for Apple Inc.’s iPhone, is looking for additional exclusive partnerships with device manufacturers, as its iPhone deal is said to end.

Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless company, will start selling the iPhone early next year, two people familiar with the company’s plans said in June. Exclusive partnerships are still required for carriers, Glenn Lurie, who’s responsible for AT&T’s tablet devices and partnerships, said today in an interview at a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona.

“I don’t think the era has gone at all, I believe that exclusive relationships drive innovation,” Lurie said. “In my space, I’m definitely still cutting deals that are exclusive.”

AT&T, based in Dallas, has had sole domain over the popular touch-screen smartphone in the U.S. since its introduction in 2007. AT&T activated 5.2 million of the phones last quarter. The company is also the only provider that lets owners of Apple’s iPad connect directly to its mobile-phone network.

“We have a very good relationship with Apple, we’ve been working together for multiple years and I assume that that will continue,” Lurie said. When “you know it’s just you two talking and they’re not going to be in your competitor’s office the next day, you can get very deep into how you’re going to deliver a better product.”

Lurie declined to comment on whether AT&T’s exclusive iPhone deal will end.

Tablet Offerings

AT&T will also limit the number of different tablets it sells in its own stores, Lurie said. “Until we understand the full breadth of the demand, we’re going to have to pick a few, put them in and see how they go.” National retailers including Best Buy Co. may sell a wider range of tablets, he said.

AT&T will begin selling Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy tablet on Nov. 21, at least a week later than Verizon. The Galaxy Tab device is designed to compete with the iPad, which held 95 percent of the tablet computer market in the third quarter, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London jbrowning9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root in Paris at vroot@bloomberg.net

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