Sanford Bernstein’s European telecoms analyst Robin Bienenstock returns today with another note on Apple’s (AAPL) relationship with carriers across the pond, following her discussion yesterday of the battle over the “Soft SIM.”
In today’s note, Bienenstock writes that although the fear of Apple creating an easily unlocked SIM card appears to have faded, nevertheless, Europe’s wireless operators have moved ahead with reductions in the subsidy they provide to the iPhone. Bienenstock has observed a €40 to €150 reduction in iPhone subsidies “in the largest iPhone markets.”
In essence, the carriers sensed Apple was seeking to play them against one another even more, in a “prisoner’s dilemma,” and they have been spooked.
She also notes promotions for the iPhone have disappeared from the carriers’ home pages, and that “ceilings have fallen on tariffs across Europe.”
“It seems that the ironic and unintended consequence of Apple’s apparent attempt to divide and conquer the Operators has been to drive them to more rational pricing policies for both handsets and tariffs,” writes Bienenstock.
The impact for Apple? Bienenstock expects carriers will de-emphasize the iPhone 5 next year and seek to promote a “fragmented” landscape of different phone platforms — Android, Symbian/Maemo/Meego, BlackBerry, Win Phone 7, etc.