October 16, 2019

Intel 4th-Quarter Earnings Are Sharply Lower

The world’s biggest maker of semiconductors, which grew by supplying chips to most of the world’s personal computer makers, is now facing an erosion of that market. According to Gartner, a market analysis firm, PC shipments worldwide declined 3.5 percent in 2012.

The result was evident Thursday in Intel’s fourth-quarter earnings report. The company, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., reported net income of $2.5 billion, or 48 cents a share, down 27 percent from $3.4 billion, or 64 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 3 percent to $13.5 billion from $13.9 billion.

“The PC business as we’ve known it is evolving,” said Paul S. Otellini, Intel’s chief executive, in a call to analysts. “The form factors are going to blur here.”

Instead of PCs, more people and businesses are buying smartphones and tablets. Intel gets 64 percent of its revenues and some of its highest profit margins from chips for PCs. It has scrambled to revive the market, while it aggressively tries to supply tablet and smartphone makers, so far with little success.

But even as it gets harder to sell PCs, Intel appears to have managed its business better than many investors thought possible. Revenue was in line with analysts’ expectations, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters, but net income was higher than the 45 cents a share that the analysts were expecting, on average.

Intel projected lower revenue and pressure on its profit margins for 2013, however, which sent its shares down about 5 percent in after-hours trading. Intel shares finished regular trading at $22.68, up 57 cents.

At the after-hours price, Intel’s market capitalization dropped below that of Qualcomm — a smaller maker of chips, but a company that makes chips for smartphones and tablets. Even a year ago, this would have been unthinkable.

Over the last six months, shares of Intel have fallen about 18 percent, while Qualcomm’s stock is up almost 20 percent. ARM Holdings, which sells designs for low-power chips popular in mobile devices, is up almost 90 percent in that time.

“Longer term, Intel will move more aggressively into smartphones,” said Bobby Burleson, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. “But everyone worries about their long-term gross margins.”

Intel, which employs an engineering-focused staff of 105,000 people, plans to continue to invest heavily in research and development, as well as new manufacturing facilities. Intel operates on the principle that making the biggest volumes of the most advanced chips gives it a quality and profit margin advantage.

Despite the lower earnings, Intel said it would spend $18.9 billion on research and development, along with marketing and administrative costs, in 2013. Two years ago Intel spent $16 billion on those things, increasing that amount to $18.2 billion last year.

“Our manufacturing leadership becomes increasingly valuable,” said Stacy J. Smith, Intel’s chief financial officer. “People expect Intel to make more powerful, more efficient devices. That applies across all our businesses.”

That works, as long as the chips have buyers. Last year Intel hoped two PC industry initiatives would woo buyers back to PCs, but neither did. One, backed by a large investment from Intel, was in lightweight ultrabook laptop computers, many of which had tablet features, like touch screens. These came to market later than analysts had expected, at prices most consumers did not find attractive.

The other, Microsoft’s release of its Windows 8 operating system, has so far failed to excite buyers. Consumers and businesses did not buy new computers in order to use the upgraded system.

Mr. Otellini remained upbeat about ultrabooks, saying that there were now 140 types of the lightweight laptops on the market. The number of styles and different ways they use things like keyboards and touch screens, he said, would make it harder to tell a PC from a tablet.

“We’re in the midst of a radical transformation with the blurring of form factors,” he said, adding that this year Intel would introduce a new chip, called Haswell, which would help in the production of lightweight machines that have longer battery life. He said little about Windows 8.

Intel’s second-largest business, chips for computer servers in data centers, reflected an overall strength in that industry. Fourth-quarter sales to data centers was $2.8 billion, an increase of 4 percent from a year earlier.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/18/technology/intel-earnings-are-sharply-lower.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Lumia Sales Lift Nokia Fourth-Quarter Results

The Finnish company, which has been losing market share to Samsung and Apple, said the better-than-expected result was also helped by cost cuts, a stronger-than-expected performance from its Nokia Siemens Networks unit and 50 million euros ($65.2 million) in patent royalties.

The surprise announcement lifted the shares to nine-month highs and eased pressure on Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who has been trying to prove his February 2011 decision to switch to Microsoft Windows software was the right one.

Elop was seen to be running out of time after saying that the transition would take two years. Success of the high-end Lumia smartphones has been considered crucial for the company’s survival, and investors had said Elop would need to quit or change strategy if sales did not pick up by early 2013.

“We’re very pleased with the Lumia response,” Elop told analysts, although he added that sales of the latest 920 models, which use the new Windows Phone 8 software, had been constrained by a shortage of supplies.

Nokia estimated fourth-quarter operating margin in its mobile phone business was between break-even to 2 percent. It previously forecast the margin to be around minus 6 percent.

Official results, including more details on its profit and cash position, are due on January 24.

Fourth-quarter net sales in devices and services were about 3.9 billion euros ($5.09 billion), Nokia said. It sold a total of 86.3 million devices. Smartphones accounted for 6.6 million units, of which 4.4 million were the Windows-based Lumia handsets.

Nokia shares rose 10.8 percent to 3.32 euros as some investors cheered the rare positive announcement from Nokia and traders scrambled to cover their short positions.

Nokia had 17 percent of shares out on loan, according to Markit data, making it one of the most “shorted” stocks in Europe.


The company said that conditions remained tough despite the stronger-than-expected fourth quarter, and forecast its margin to be around minus 2 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“We continue to operate in a competitive environment with limited visibility,” Elop said.

Some analysts were skeptical about the success of the Lumia strategy. Nokia would not say how many of the Lumias it sold were the newest models rather than the heavily discounted ones launched earlier.

Many also noted Lumias sold in the fourth quarter still make up a small portion of global smartphone sales in the same period, estimated at over 200 million.

“4.4 million Lumias sold is not yet a promise of a turnaround,” said Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen, who had just downgraded the shares to “sell” on Tuesday.

Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu said he was still negative about the shares, rating them “underperform”.

“Last year, in order to sustain Lumia volumes, Nokia had to cut prices very rapidly, driving gross margins close to zero. We believe this will repeat this year,” he said.

Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was too early to call it a turnaround.

“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said. “I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”

($1 = 0.7667 euros)

(Additional reporting by Terhi Kinnunen and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman and Sophie Walker)

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/01/10/technology/10reuters-nokia-sales.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Nokia Sees Results From New Smartphone Line

BERLIN — Nokia said Thursday that its struggling mobile phone business was showing signs of a rebound, turning a profit in the fourth quarter fueled by sales of its Lumia smartphones that use Microsoft software.

Stephen Elop, the Nokia chief executive, said sales of smartphones and more basic cellphones, as well as profitability at the Nokia Siemens network-equipment venture, all came in better than expected during the three months through December.

“While we definitely experienced some tough challenges in the first half of 2012, we are managing through these issues,” Mr. Elop said in a conference call with journalists.

Nokia has amassed nearly €5 billion, or $6.5 billion, in losses since Mr. Elop, a former Microsoft executive, announced plans to phase out Nokia phones that used its own Symbian operating system for the Lumia line, which uses the Windows Phone 8 software, in February 2011.

Sales of Lumia phones increased only modestly during the early part of 2012, raising concern that the company’s turnaround strategy, marked by cost cutting and the sale of subsidiary businesses, would not be enough to save the former market leader.

But in the fourth quarter, amid heavy television and print ad spending in Europe and North America, Nokia said it sold 4.4 million Lumia phones, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.

The company said revenue from the sale of 86.3 million mobile phones of all kinds amounted to €3.9 billion in the quarter, without providing comparative figures.

The company’s shares surged as much as 16 percent in Helsinki on the news.

In a statement, Nokia said that it expected operating profit at its devices and services business, which makes up about half of its total sales, to break even or generate a profit of as much as 2 percent of sales in the fourth quarter. In October, Nokia had told investors that it expected the business to make an operating loss of as much as 10 percent of sales.

But sales of its Lumia smartphone and Asha feature phones rose more than expected. Also, Nokia Siemens, its network gear venture, will report an operating profit of 13 percent to 15 percent of sales in the fourth quarter, compared with an expected range of 4 percent to 12 percent.

Looking ahead, Nokia said it expected to return to an operating loss of 2 percent of sales in the first quarter amid the post-holiday buying lull and harsh competition. But the results for the coming three months could vary widely, Nokia warned, from an even bigger 6 percent operating loss to a 2 percent operating profit.

Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys, a research firm in Reading, England, said Nokia’s improving financial position was a positive step. But the company, which ceded its market leadership to Samsung and Apple, is not out of the woods yet.

“On face value, this is a positive for Nokia,” Mr. Cunningham said. “But 2013 could still turn out to be another very difficult year for Nokia. It is way too premature to say that the company has made a turnaround.”

Mr. Cunningham said he used the Lumia 920, Nokia’s newest smartphone, during the Christmas holidays and liked the experience.

“But the more I used the phone, the more apparent it became to me that there are big gaps between Lumia and its competitors in terms of the functionality and usability of its apps,” Mr. Cunningham said. “I still think there is a lot of work to be done on Lumia.”

Mr. Elop said Nokia would continue to innovate to close the gap with competitors. The big issues that Nokia faces, he said, are “managing efficiently, building great products and changing the way we operate. We’re beginning to see that happen.”

Nokia’s shares closed up nearly 13 percent at €3.39 in Helsinki trading.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/technology/nokia-sees-results-from-new-smartphone-line.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Dish Network Makes Bid for Clearwire

8:08 p.m. | Updated Not so fast, Sprint.

Dish Network made an unsolicited bid on Tuesday for Clearwire, the wireless network operator, a complicated offer that threatens the existing takeover deal by the company’s majority owner, Sprint Nextel.

As part of the deal, Dish would pay $2.2 billion for a portion of Clearwire’s valuable wireless spectrum and forge new commercial ties with Clearwire, fulfilling a vision of creating a new cellphone service provider. Dish, a satellite TV company, is also offering to pay $3.30 a share for Clearwire stock, 11 percent more than Sprint’s existing proposal. The bid values Clearwire’s shares at $4.9 billion.

Shares in Clearwire jumped more than 8 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday, to $3.16, as investors apparently anticipated a bidding war for the struggling company.

Clearwire’s spectrum is the lure for both suitors.

Sprint is hoping to expand its next generation of data services. It is now building out its Long Term Evolution, or LTE, network, which can support the latest smartphones.

Dish has been steadily acquiring spectrum assets in recent years. To that end, it bought the satellite operator DBSD North America out of bankruptcy in 2011. Last month, the company won a critical regulatory ruling giving it the right to convert some satellite airwaves for cellphone service.

But Dish’s proposal for Clearwire faces significant hurdles. Sprint already owns more than 50 percent of Clearwire, and numerous agreements between the two companies would most likely prohibit the sort of commercial ties that Dish is seeking.

Sprint said the Dish proposal was “illusory” and “not viable.” “Sprint believes its agreement to acquire Clearwire, which offers Clearwire shareholders certain and attractive value, is superior to the highly conditional Dish proposal,” Sprint said in a statement.

Still, Dish and its chief executive, Charles Ergen, may be seeking to attract investors unhappy with Sprint’s offer. Several shareholders, including activist hedge funds, have declared the Sprint’s offer too low.

“If nothing else, Clearwire’s description of the Dish offer proves one thing: Sprint’s offer to purchase Clearwire’s stock is inadequate,” one of those hedge funds, Crest Financial, said in a statement.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 9, 2013

An earlier version of the article said that the Dish proposal valued Clearwire at $2.4 billion. It values Clearwire’s common shares at $4.9 billion.

A version of this article appeared in print on 01/09/2013, on page B7 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Dish Network Tops Sprint In a Bid to Buy Clearwire.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/dish-network-makes-bid-for-clearwire-trumping-sprint-offer/?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Shrewd Shopper Carries a Smartphone

Retailers are trying to lure shoppers away from the Internet, where they have increasingly been shopping to avoid Black Friday madness, and back to the stores. The bait is technological tools that will make shopping on the busiest day of the year a little more sane — and give shoppers an edge over their competition.

Those with smartphones in hand will get better planning tools, prices and parking spots. Walmart has a map that shows shoppers exactly where the top Black Friday specials can be found. A Mall of America Twitter feed gives advice on traffic and gifts, and the Macy’s app sends special deals for every five minutes a shopper stays in a store.

“The crazy mad rush to camp out and the crazy mad rush to hit the doorbusters have really made people think, ‘I’m just going to stay home on Black Friday,’ ” said Carey Rossi, editor in chief of ConsumerSearch.com, a review site. “This is going to invite some people back and say, ‘You know what? It doesn’t have to be that crazy.’ ”

Part of the retailers’ strategy is to slap back at online stores like Amazon.com, which last year used apps to pick off shoppers as they browsed in physical stores. But the stores are also recognizing that shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving need not require an overnight wait in line, a helmet and elbow pads. A smartphone gives shoppers enough of an edge.

“This takes away that frantic Black Friday anxiety,” said Lawrence Fong, co-founder of BuyVia, an app that sends people price alerts and promotions. “While there’s a sport to it, life’s a little too short.”

Denise Fouts, 45, who works repairing fire and water damage in Chandler, Ariz., was already using apps, including Shopkick, Target’s app and one called Black Friday, before Thanksgiving to prepare for Black Friday. “There still are going to be the crowds, but at least I already know ahead of time what I’m going specifically for,” Ms. Fouts said.

Last week, Macy’s released an update to its app with about 300 Black Friday specials and their location. In the Herald Square store, for instance, the $49.99 cashmere sweater specials will be in the Broadway side of the fifth-floor women’s department.

“With the speed that people are shopping with on Black Friday, they need to be really efficient about how they’re spending their time,” said Jennifer Kasper, group vice president for digital media at Macy’s.

When shoppers keep the app open, Macy’s will start sending special deals to the phone every five minutes. The deals are not advertised elsewhere.

Walmart has had an app for several years, but recently introduced an in-store mode, which shows things like the current circular or food tastings when a shopper is near a certain location. Twelve percent of Walmart’s mobile revenue now comes from when a person is inside a store.

For Black Friday, the app will have a map of each store, with the precise location of the top sale items — so planners can determine the best way to run. “The blitz items are not where you think they would be, because for traffic reasons, maybe the hot game console is in the lawn and garden center,” said Gibu Thomas, senior vice president for mobile and digital for Walmart Global eCommerce.

Target is also testing a way-finding feature on its app at stores that include some in Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles. If a shopper types in an item, the app will give its location.

Other app makers are betting that shoppers want apps that pull in information from many stores.

RedLaser, an eBay app, lets shoppers use their phones to compare prices and recently started using location data to give shoppers personalized promotions when they walk into stores, including items not on store shelves at Best Buy, for instance. RetailMeNot, which offers e-commerce coupons, now has offline coupons that will pop up on users’ cellphones when they step near 500 malls on Black Friday.

“Consumers are not going to download 40 different apps for 40 different stores,” said Cyriac Roeding, co-founder of Shopkick, a location-based app that gives shoppers points, redeemable for perks, when they walk into stores or scan certain items.

For Black Friday, Shopkick is publishing what it calls a little black book with the top doorbusters. Shoppers will earn extra points and rewards for shopping on Black Friday.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/technology/the-shrewd-shopper-carries-a-smartphone-on-black-friday.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Intel Cuts Outlook on Weak PC Demand; Shares Slump

Intel also said it was scaling back capital spending as a result of the business slowdown. Intel’s stock was down 3.7 percent on Friday afternoon, and shares of ASML Holding NV and other companies that make chip-manufacturing equipment also lost ground.

A revision of Intel targets had been expected by some analysts after PC makers Hewlett Packard Co and Dell Inc warned of slow demand last month, a development that has been compounded by a shaky global economy and consumers shifting toward tablets and smartphones.

But the 8 percent reduction in the top chipmaker’s revenue outlook was much more severe than expected. Intel also withdrew its full-year forecast.

The scaled-back outlook comes just days ahead of a major event where Intel will tout a new generation of processors that consume less power, central to its strategy of reinvigorating a stagnant PC industry.

Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said the size of the Intel cut was surprising. Weakness in PC sales to businesses and governments, known as enterprise sales, cited by Intel also raised concerns.

“In the last six to eight quarters, consumers have been weak but the enterprise was strong. Now the enterprise is weak,” Rasgon said.


Intel’s warning comes at a time when PC makers should be gearing up to build more computers than usual ahead of the launch of Microsoft Corp’s Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Intel has been banking on the Windows 8 release in October to help slow the trend of consumers buying smartphones and tablets instead of PCs.

Devices running Windows 8 and powered by Intel’s latest components will be a major draw when thousands of technology professionals descend on the annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco next week.

While a Windows release normally boosts computer sales, analysts believe it might not help as much this time.

At the forum, Intel is expected to show off a range of Ultrabook laptops powered by recently launched Ivy Bridge processors, as well as hybrid devices with screens that detach from keyboards to be used as tablets.

Along with concerns about consumer demand being hurt by the weak economy, manufacturers are reluctant to commit their resources until they have a better idea of which kinds of new devices will become hits with consumers.

“You’re trying to decide are people going to buy … a tablet that slots into a keyboard, or are they going buy traditional notebooks or ultrabooks?” said MKM Partners analyst Daniel Berenbaum.

“In the absence of knowing what to sell, there’s a clear reluctance to build any sort of further inventory.”


Intel’s next-generation PC processor, code-named Haswell, will also be front-and-center at the forum, with executives talking up improved power performance that will let future laptops stay on longer without needing a recharge.

Haswell, due to appear in a crop of laptops released for next year’s holiday season, will improve on computing and graphics features and is targeted to reduce electricity consumption from 17 watts to 10 watts, according to Intel.

Intel said it now expects third-quarter revenue of $13.2 billion, plus or minus $300 million, down from its previous forecast of $13.8 billion to $14.8 billion.

Analysts on average expected $14.2 billion. The company is due to report third-quarter results in October.

Intel processors are used in 80 percent of the world’s PCs, but the Santa Clara, California, company has been slow to adapt chips for smartphones and tablets and now trails Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which design their chips using power-efficient technology licensed from ARM Holdings Plc.

Intel’s new Medfield processor, showcased in phones launched this year in Russia, India and the United Kingdom, surprised some critics who believed the chips would consume too much power.

Motorola Mobility, owned by Google Inc, is expected to unveil an Intel-based smartphone in London on September 18, the first of a multi-device agreement with the chipmaker.

“They have a respectable seat at the (mobile) table because they surprised a lot of people with Medfield and just how well that did perform,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights Strategy. “Their big chance to get more credibility will come with Motorola.”

The company said on Friday that full-year capital spending is expected to fall short of its previous forecast of $12.1 billion to $12.9 billion.

It expects gross margin of 62 percent for the third quarter, plus or minus 1 percentage point, down from its previous expectation of 63 percent, plus or minus a couple of percentage points.

Intel shares were down 3.7 percent at $24.16 on Friday afternoon. AMD was off 4.9 percent at $3.48. PC graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp was down 1.9 percent at $13.47.

ASML’s Nasdaq-traded shares were down 1.7 percent at $56.88, and stock of chip gear maker Applied Materials Inc was down 0.7 percent at $11.83.

(Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore, Sinead Carew and Nicola Leske in New York; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, John Wallace and Matthew Lewis)

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/09/07/technology/07reuters-intel-outlook.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: Verizon Unveils Wireless Plans That Cover Several Devices

Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

4:54 p.m. | Updated Adding commentary from a consumer-rights advocacy group and an analyst.

4:02 p.m. | Updated Removing commentary from an analyst who called this a price hike. Verizon has clarified that customers on its current tiered data plans can stay on them.

In a first for the American wireless industry, Verizon Wireless said on Tuesday that it was introducing plans that would allow customers to pay for a certain amount of wireless data and share that allotment across their family’s smartphones, tablets and laptops.

To Verizon, this is an evolution of family plans for cellphones, which offer a shared pool of calling minutes and text messages. The new plans include unlimited calls and texts, but they put limits on wireless data — at a time when mobile Internet use is cutting down on time spent talking and texting.

The shared plans could help Verizon offset the decline in revenue that the trend is causing. Verizon is not the only carrier that recognizes this: ATT, the second-biggest American carrier after Verizon, has also said that it plans to introduce shared plans this year.

Consumers may find the new plans more appealing than having to get separate data contracts for, say, an iPad and a teenager’s phone. But the idea of paying for unlimited texts and calls may not sit well with everyone.

“Verizon is finally delivering something that everybody wants — in a way that nobody wants,” said Jan Dawson, a mobile analyst at Ovum, a research firm. “There are people who want a shared data plan and minimal voice and text messages, and that just isn’t available.”

For Verizon customers, the shared plans are an option, not a replacement for their current phone plans, which involve paying a monthly fee for a certain amount of minutes, text messages and data.

Brenda Raney, a Verizon spokeswoman, said customers with these older plans would not be required to switch to a shared plan, even when they upgraded to a new device.

“The point of this is customer flexibility and value,” Ms. Raney said. “If you have a smartphone and you don’t have a tablet, but you’re at the beach one day and your friend has a tablet, you can activate it right then and there because it’s included in the data plan.”

The shared plans may have repercussions for customers who are clinging to unlimited data plans. Verizon discontinued these last year, but customers who wanted to keep them were allowed to do so. After the shared plans come into effect later this month, Verizon’s unlimited data customers who want to get a new phone at a discounted price will have to pick either a limited data plan or a shared plan. They can keep their old plans only if they buy a new smartphone at its full, unsubsidized price — often hundreds of dollars.

Customers who choose a shared data plan will pay a monthly fee for each device on their account. A smartphone would cost $40 a month, a normal cellphone $30 and a tablet $10. Then there is an additional monthly fee for the shared data pool, ranging from $50 for 1 gigabyte to $100 for 10 gigabytes. A family of three with an iPhone, a regular cellphone and an iPad that wants 10 gigabytes would pay a total of $180 a month.

When an account is close to using up its data, each device on the shared plan receives an alert asking if the customer wants to buy an extra 2 gigabytes of data for $10, Ms. Raney of Verizon said. But if they ignore this and go over the limit, they have to pay $15 for every extra gigabyte they use, she said.

Verizon previously outlined to investors how these plans would help it make more money. Francis J. Shammo, Verizon’s chief financial officer, said at a recent investors’ conference that the company believed that its faster fourth-generation LTE network would encourage people to stream video and generally be heavier users of data, eventually prompting them to buy the more expensive plans. He added that the new plans would help push the old unlimited customers off those plans.

“It is going to be more important that people will start to upgrade in their tiers as they start to really realize the benefits of the LTE network,” Mr. Shammo said. “Over the future time, as they add more devices, they are going to have to buy up into tiers.”

Michael Weinberg, senior staff lawyer at Public Knowledge, a consumer-rights advocacy group, said he was puzzled by one aspect of the new plans. He said he found it odd that customers had to pay an additional fee per device when they were already paying for the data they were using.

“I’m already cutting Verizon a check for a pool of data,” he said. “Why do I have to pay a monthly extra fee just for the pleasure of adding a device to my account?”

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/verizon-shared-data-plans/?partner=rss&emc=rss

AT&T’s Net Loss Tied to T-Mobile Merger Fees

However, a wave of momentum from iPhone sales and new subscribers nudged ATT’s revenue up 4 percent during the quarter, with sales rising to $32.5 billion from $31.4 billion a year ago. Analysts expected the company to report $31.95 billion in revenue.

The company added 717,000 post-paid wireless subscribers, the largest increase in five quarters, and a net total of 2.5 million wireless subscribers, which lifted the company’s base to 103.2 million wireless customers. ATT also said it beat previous records for smartphone sales during the quarter, selling 7.6 million iPhones and 9.4 million smartphones over all.

Rick Franklin, an analyst with Edward Jones, said the report “sets ATT up well for future wireless data growth and profitability.”

After discounting charges from the $4 billion breakup fee paid in the wake of the T-Mobile USA bid, ATT’s per-share profit was 42 cents; analysts expected 43 cents a share.

The company also beat results for Verizon, the country’s largest phone company, which said on Wednesday that it sold 4.2 million iPhones and 7.7 million smartphones during the same period. ATT said that 76 percent of its overall revenue increase stemmed from the company’s growth in wireless, wireline data and services.

“We had a tremendous year in terms of execution, and we have excellent momentum across our growth platforms,” said Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of ATT, in a statement. “This was a blowout quarter for smartphone sales.”

“Looking ahead, we start 2012 with the best visibility we’ve had in some time, and we’re well-positioned to deliver solid results,” Mr. Stephenson said.

Investors seemed initially disappointed by the results, with shares slipping 2.4 percent to $29.50 in premarket trading.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7298eddb37f52d167f115a97573a3cb4

Practical Traveler: Testing E-Boarding Passes

I recently tried a mobile boarding pass for the first time on a Delta flight out of La Guardia Airport, and had no problems checking in or getting through security and onto the plane. But it’s not yet a foolproof way to travel, so here are some things I learned from my test drive, as well as feedback from fliers who have used e-boarding passes many times.

Who offers e-boarding?

American, Delta, Continental and United are the biggest e-boarding champions, offering this option to travelers departing from at least 75 airports. Alaska Airlines has introduced it at about 50 airports, and US Airways in nearly 20 cities. JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America have not yet embraced mobile boarding.

The airlines list e-boarding cities on their Web sites — mostly cities with larger airports — but small airports are getting on board as the Transportation Security Administration and the airlines install equipment to scan travelers’ handheld devices. When you check in, you’ll see the mobile boarding pass option only if it’s available for your departure city — and your stopover city, if you’re making a connection.

How does it work?

Most carriers offer two ways to get an e-boarding pass: you can choose to have one sent to your mobile device (via e-mail or text message) when you check in online, or you can use an airline app to check in and your boarding pass will appear within the application. The airlines say this option works with most Web-enabled smartphones and iPads, but if your device is finicky stick with paper.

When you get to the airport, you’ll have to navigate through your e-mail or the airline app to display the boarding pass bar code on your screen so it can be scanned by a security agent and then again at your gate.

Using the Delta app on my iPhone, I found it was a little tricky to make sure that my boarding pass was visible and that my phone didn’t go to sleep just as I approached the agent. Some travelers find that security or airline staff members still get flustered — or annoyed — by the technology.

Robert Costello, a Delta frequent flier who often uses e-boarding passes, said he once had to walk to a different security checkpoint because the boarding pass reader wasn’t working at his lane, but he and other travelers say these glitches have tapered off as the technology has become more widespread.

He also suggested a way to avoid navigating through an e-mail folder or app to retrieve your boarding pass, which can be slow if there’s a poor cell signal: use your phone to take a picture of the boarding pass screen ahead of time and show that image instead.

“On an iPhone, it’s just a matter of pushing the button at the top of the phone and the home button together,” he said. “I’ve found if I have a picture, that’s the fastest thing.” (Check your manual for information on how to do that with other smartphones.)

Turning up your screen’s brightness and carrying a charger with you are other useful tips — the latter in case your battery runs out during a delay and you need to find an outlet at the gate.

Why bother?

Mr. Costello said he prefers e-boarding passes because his phone is always at hand, whereas he used to have to rummage around in his pockets or bag to find a paper boarding pass, which is also more likely to get wrinkled or lost.

Another advantage of the electronic option is that travelers don’t always have access to a printer, so choosing a mobile boarding pass eliminates the hassle of stopping at a kiosk at the airport. However minimally, it also eliminates paper from the garbage stream.

Are there any drawbacks?

The most obvious risk with mobile boarding is that if your phone’s battery dies or there are any problems reading your e-boarding pass, you’ll have to print one at a kiosk or ticket counter, and that could delay your trip if you’re running late.

Using a mobile boarding pass can also be a challenge if you’re traveling with multiple people in one reservation. US Airways and Continental offer e-boarding only if there’s one person in the reservation; with other airlines, each person can check in online and have a boarding pass sent to his or her phone. But most airline apps don’t handle multiple boarding passes, and even when it’s possible, it can take some juggling to manage several passes on one device.

Michael Rubiano, a United elite flyer, said that when traveling with his wife and children, he has managed to have multiple e-boarding passes open in different windows on his smartphone’s browser. “But it’s kind of a pain,” he said. “And for most people, especially families not used to traveling frequently, it’s not really a practical option.”

He and other frequent fliers mentioned another concern: getting credit for missing miles without having a printed boarding pass to prove you were on a flight.

“I’m reluctant to use mobile boarding passes on an airline where I’ve had a problem with frequent flier miles posting on time and accurately,” said Kyle Raccio, who usually chooses a mobile boarding pass but opts for a print version when flying Continental.

Another solution is to save a digital copy of your e-boarding pass (especially if you check in using an app, because the pass typically disappears after your flight), or print a copy as a backup, which I did for my flight.

While that sort of defeats the purpose of going mobile, it can offer peace of mind as the airlines work out the kinks in what is still a developing technology.

“There are definitely pluses and minuses with mobile boarding,” Mr. Raccio said. “Hopefully, those minuses will be looked at and improved for travelers.”

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Digital Domain: Sprint’s Unlimited Data Plan, and the Challenges Ahead

Brave little Sprint, with about a 15 percent market share, is our best hope for keeping a piece of the mobile Internet free of meters. But if data gluttons are the only ones who partake of Sprint’s feast, unmetered service will be unsustainable.

“The simplicity and peace of mind from unlimited services at one consistent price must attract mainstream users, not just outliers,” says Will Souder, Sprint’s vice president for pricing.

Mr. Souder compares Sprint’s business to that of a pizzeria that offers an all-you-can-eat lunch. “If I come in and eat eight pieces, that needs to be balanced by my sister coming and eating at the salad bar,” he says.

Three years ago, Sprint introduced its “Simply Everything” plan for $99.99 — covering, within the United States, unlimited voice calls, data and text messages. “When we launched, we had a lot of trepidation,” Mr. Souder says, “but we were pleasantly surprised with the number of relatively light users who were willing to pay more for this plan.”

If Sprint Nextel’s financial results were showing a nicely profitable business, humming in the shadows of its much bigger rivals, Verizon Wireless and ATT, customers who hate meters could rejoice.

Unfortunately, the company has not posted annual net profits since 2006. Mr. Souder says the unlimited plans have not contributed to the losses, saying Sprint has had four consecutive quarters of growth in average revenue per user and has reversed a trend of losing customers.

Sprint has been monitoring use patterns and costs, and in January it increased the price of “Everything” plans for newly activated smartphones by $10 a month. The move has helped the company keep its business on a healthy, sustainable foundation, Mr. Souder says.

Sprint is behaving more like some carriers across the Atlantic. Smaller operators in Europe “tend to be more aggressive in pricing strategies” and are using unlimited data plans to differentiate their offerings from larger rivals, says Thomas Tschentscher, a partner at the international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer who specializes in telecommunications.

In the United States, T-Mobile sells “unlimited” plans, too, but it throttles back the download speeds when data use passes a certain threshold each month.

Mr. Tschentscher says that in Europe, data throttling is all but absent. “Because of the interoperability of the handsets, customers in Europe can easily switch carriers,” he says. “So it would be a competitive disadvantage for a carrier to impose throttling down if the others don’t.”

Sprint says its network hasn’t been swamped by too many users wanting to watch movies or television shows on Android phones. “Long-form video on the handset today is still in its infancy,” Mr. Souder says. Of course, tablets are a different matter — and that’s why Sprint has never extended unlimited data plans to them.

Asked what happens when smartphone screens become larger and some tablet computers become smaller, blurring the boundaries between the two, Mr. Souder said Sprint would “constantly evaluate our pricing strategy.”

Sprint’s network has accommodated the arrival of Android phones. The iPhone may come to Sprint next month, if rumors on tech blogs prove accurate. Mr. Souder declined to respond to questions about how his network could absorb a sharp spike in data use if Sprint — speaking only hypothetically, of course — were to add an unnamed, but very, very popular smartphone.

Some independent analysts see nothing but difficulties ahead for Sprint. Craig E. Moffett, a vice president and senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Company, says scale is essential to this business and is the reason that the only profitable major carriers are ATT and Verizon Wireless.

Mr. Moffett notes that Sprint has $4 billion in debt that will soon mature. It is also the majority owner of Clearwire, whose half-built 4G network covers only half the United States population. To have 4G cover the next 40 percent of the population, spread across a much wider area, it will have to build eight times as much infrastructure as required for the first phase, he says, adding: “It can’t afford to abandon Clearwire but it can’t afford to finish it either.”

If Sprint doesn’t complete the next-generation network, it won’t be able to keep unlimited data plans for long, Mr. Moffett says, because “the burden on the 3G network will be too great.”

There are no signs that Sprint will pull back from unlimited data, at least for now. In fact, the company seems to be staking its identity on the appeal of all-you-can-eat pricing. It may even expand the concept further.

Speaking at the Dive Into Mobile conference last December, Daniel R. Hesse, Sprint Nextel’s C.E.O., talked about the logical next step: including the phone, tablet, PC, e-reader and whatever in a single plan. The idea was mentioned merely as a possibility, and it was not clear whether it would be feasible to have unlimited data for multiple devices on one plan — the ultimate in simplicity.

Sprint’s unmetered wireless business needs more customers to reach scale. Salad eaters who like one worry-free, all-you-can-eat price are especially welcome at the table.

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail: stross@nytimes.com.

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