We've heard a thousand times that AT&T's reign as the sole iPhone provider would likely come to an end long before the company's exclusivity agreement with Apple runs out in 2012, but at the end of the day, these have always been rumors and loosely strung speculation, with a bit of wishful thinking thrown in for good measure.
Maybe this latest tidbit falls into those same categories, but even AT&T seems convinced that its marriage to Apple is ending in a premature divorce. In a recent SEC filing discussing the wireless carrier's quarterly results, AT&T dropped some strong hints that Apple wants to see other carriers.
"We believe offering a wide variety of handsets reduces dependence on any single handset as these products evolve," AT&T stated. "In addition, offering a number of attractive handsets on an exclusive basis distinguishes us from our competitors. As these exclusivity arrangements end, we expect to continue to offer such handsets (based on historical industry practice), and we believe our service plan offerings will help to retain our customers by providing incentives not to move to a new carrier."
AT&T went on to state that it doesn't see losing Apple as an exclusive partner as having "a material negative impact" on the company's wireless income or consolidated operating margin.
Sure, AT&T never specifically mentioned the iPhone or Apple, but it's worth mentioning that no previous SEC filing made any mention of potentially losing exclusivity rights. That would seem to suggest that the iPhone is headed elsewhere, and long before 2012.