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Why Are Some Cellphone Carriers Steering Customers Away From iPhones?

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Within the last couple years, more cellphone service providers have begun to carry Apple's iPhone. At first only AT&T carried the device, then in January 2011, Verizon and other major carriers began selling the Apple smartphone as well.

But given the plethora of other smartphone brands there are to choose from, reports over the last couple months show that sales staff may be trying to turn customers away from the iPhone when they can.

Just this week, T-Mobile, which is not a provider for iPhone, allegedly was shown to be encouraging its employees to sell against the iPhone. TmoNews released a leaked memo regarding the company's September training priorities and one of the action items was specifically "Selling Against the iPhone."

TmoNews states:

Perhaps it’s coincidental that the information for employees to utilize against the iPhone will drop on September 21st, a date being tossed around as a possible release date for the next-generation iPhone. Perhaps it’s just coincidence but we can’t envision a scenario in which T-Mobile would prepare their employees to sell against a product they are about to receive.

Although it appears that the company will continue to go iPhone-less, TmoNews does point out it seems to be getting technology that allows unlocked iPhone 4 or 4s to be used through the carrier.

But is T-Mobile the only one allegedly selling against the iPhone. Some report similar experiences at more generic stores selling phones as well. A commenter on MacRumors wrote:

The worst are the mall stores that have AT&T and Verizon logos but are actually "cellular sales" or something. In the past, they wouldn't sell the iPhone at all because the profit margins were so narrow. Now they sell it, but do everything they can to annoy you about your purchase. "OMG, don't you know Droids do so much more? ..."

Verizon was also accused earlier this year, via anecdotal evidence, of steering customers away from the iPhone. Chris Matyszczyk did some undercover reporting in May to show just how much he was being unsold the iPhone at a Verizon store:

First, I noticed that the iPhones at this Verizon store weren't displayed near any of the other smartphones. They had their own little home, tucked away against a wall. The majority of this store was given over to rivals.

When Phil came over I told him the truth, said that my friends toss stale eggs at me because I still have AT&T, and asked him what he recommended.

He darted immediately toward the Motorola Droid Razr. He explained that this would download anything 10 times faster than the iPhone.

Eventually, Matyszczyk asked why Verizon sells the iPhone at all. To which Phil responded, "Verizon doens't push iPhones. Apple pushes iPhones." Is it telling though that when Matyszczyk asked Phil what type of phone he used, it was an iPhone?

David Goldman for CNN Monday conducted 10 similar experiments in May and was also pushed a 4G Android over iPhone.

On a personal note, while looking at iPhone versus Android at a Verizon store around the time Matyszczk's piece came out, my shopping buddy and I had a similar experience. The sales clerk there immediately questioned why I thought the iPhone was what I wanted and immediately went on to debunk some of our reasoning to cite how other brands of phones within the store were better. After working with me, she went on to do the same thing to another customer who was adamant about the iPhone.

While T-Mobile may have it's own reasons to sell against the iPhone -- it doesn't officially sell the device in the first place -- Goldman explained on CNN that supplying the iPhone costs the carriers more:

Verizon and its rivals all pay much heftier up-front subsidies for the iPhone than for other devices. Verizon is also trying to ease congestion on its 3G network by promoting its more capacious and more efficient 4G service.

Goldman points out that AT&T, which has carried the phone all along, may have similar profit margin issues, but he says their reps touted the iPhone at every turn during his visit there.

On a lighter note for Apple fans though, with the leaked memo mentioning Sept. 21, some are taking this as further confirmation of the release date for iPhone 5 -- which has not been announced publicly.

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