AT&T broke out in the mobile world thanks to an exclusive deal with Apple on the iPhone. To get the deal, AT&T had to agree to Steve Jobs steep terms. Never-the-less, the deal put AT&T in a position to dominate the mobile world.
And then AT&T dropped the ball. They let the exclusive deal lapse and other carriers leapt in and stole iPhone market share. Meanwhile, AT&T did everything it could to alienate Apple and Apple loving mobile customers. First with attacks on customers who had grandfathered unlimited data contracts, then with marginal iPad support, failed attempts to push customers to Android and then removing subsidizes for iPhones in hopes customers would learn how expensive Apple iPhones were and buy alternatives.
Of course, if Apple customers are going to be forced to pay more for their iPhones, why shouldn't they give the money directly to Apple, and receive perks like Apple Care and yearly upgrades? And that's exactly what the are doing:
APPLE'S UPGRADE PROGRAM HURTING AT&T
AT&T needs to realize they have no future in mobile without strong support of the iPhone. They need to stop playing games and realize Apple loving customers are the best ones to have, or they will lose them all.
If AT&T wants to hold on it's the shrinking base of iPhone customers, and possibly grow it, it needs to really send out a message it's on team Apple. Here are my humble suggestions:
1. Go back to unlimited data plans for post pay customers for a small extra fee. (They aren't really unlimited anyway.) iPhone customers like unlimited data and by not offering that option, you're just driving customers to Sprint or any other carrier that offers it.
2. Offer free "unlimited" data for an iPad on family contracts with at least two iPhones.
3. Offer generous iPhone subsidizes before everyone flees to Apple's upgrade program.
4. Market AT&T as the best place for iPhone customers. That includes getting executives to say how much they love Apple customers, rather than trying to downplay Apple's every move.