Some telecom stocks appear to be profiting more than others when it comes to Apple's new iPhones.
According to research firm Localytics, AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) are activating a larger share of the meatier (and presumably more data-hungry) 5s. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is selling the 5s and lower-cost 5c at about the same rate, while T-Mobile USA (NASDAQ:TMUS) is appealing to more cheapskates.
Three things to watch for next
Some of this is to be expected. T-Mobile appealed directly to price-sensitive customers when it ditched contracts. Month-to-month customers are always more likely to hunt for bargains.
By contrast, customers under contract are more likely to seek coverage, features, and fast data speeds. These are the super-users Verizon is banking on in its $130 billion buyout of Vodafone's share of Verizon Wireless.
So what should we look for in the next quarter's worth of results from these carriers? I'm watching three areas specifically:
Revenue per user at AT&T and Verizon. More functional phones tend to command fatter contracts and more bountiful data plans. Look for the 5s to help the two majors earn more from new customers.
Upgrades at Sprint. It's hard to know where Sprint benefits most from the new iPhones since there appears to be an even split between 5s and 5c activations. Are most of these customers upgraders? I'd guess "yes."
Zero-down activations at T-Mobile. There's nothing like the lure of $0 down to bring in customers, and T-Mobile is offering just that to 5c customers willing to settle for a 16GB iPhone 5c. I'm expecting such deals to account for the majority of the carrier's current-quarter Apple sales.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Which telecom stock do you like most right now, and why? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.