Starting March 8th, AT&T handsets will no longer be available through discount online retailers like Simplexity (Wirefly) and Let’s Talk. Since almost all major resellers such as Radio Shack and Walmart subcontract their online cellphone sales to one of these two companies, this effectively means that AT&T products will likely be found only at the carrier’s own website or at brick-and-mortar stores — for significantly more money. It’s not immediately clear if Amazon Wireless is also affected by this change.
According to Wireless and Mobile News, Let’s Talk sent out a note to its affiliates explaining that “the primary reasons given for this change in AT&T’s business strategy were centered around AT&T cost savings and retrenchment.” In other words, it sounds as if AT&T wanted to shore up the significant losses that these etailers have been taking on high-end hardware, often offering products that would normally cost $200 directly from the carrier for free on contract (and without activation fees).
This move comes just as AT&T begins rolling out its so-called 4G handsets introduced at CES, including the desirable Samsung Infuse 4G and Atrix 4G from Motorola. It may be that the company is banking on the unique features of these devices to make their demand curves more inelastic than other smartphones; i.e. people are willing to pay higher prices for some of these phones, wanting them badly enough to eschew much less expensive hardware from other carriers through the online discounters.