original iPhone's launch in 2007, AT&T had exclusive rights to Apple's
mobile gadget. But in February 2011, Verizon stole some of the spotlight when
it started selling the iPhone 4 and now, Sprint will be jumping on the Apple
bandwagon as well for the iPhone 5 release this October.
Earlier reports indicated a September launch,
but according to The Wall Street Journal, the confirmed
launch date is now mid October. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint will all offer the
newest member of the iPhone family at that time.
Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. carrier, has been trailing along behind Verizon and
AT&T for years. At the end of the second quarter 2011, Verizon had 106
million subscribers while AT&T had 99 million and Sprint had 52 million.
Sprint's messy merger with Nextel in 2005 certainly didn't help its position
either. In addition, both rivals offering the iPhone gave those companies a
little extra edge that Sprint will now obtain in October.
According to Richard Doherty, director of the research firm Envisioneering
Group, the iPhone 5 will increase "foot traffic" in stores and
encourage customers to upgrade.
"Sprint needs it," said Doherty. "There are a lot of families
that will embrace the iPhone."
Sprint could even have an upper hand over its competitors in one crucial area,
according to Reuters -- unlimited use data services.
AT&T no longer offers unlimited plans for the iPhone, and while Verizon did
have unlimited iPhone plans during the first six months or so of selling the
device, these unlimited services were axed in July. But Sprint does offer unlimited data
plans, and an unlimited iPhone plan could be just what the company needs to
thicken the competition.
"Combined with the company's marketing focus on its unlimited plan, iPhone
would drive a rebound in subscriber growth," said Michael Nelson, a Mizuho
While offering the iPhone could prove to be advantageous for Sprint, there is a
downfall. Operators usually pay Apple higher subsidies for the iPhone than for
most other devices, meaning higher costs associated with offering Apple's
phone. Nelson estimates it could have a "near term negative impact" to
margins. Furthermore, this could be tough for investors who see these increased
handset subsidies as an issue, but the subscriber growth could also offset
these costs in the long term.
With Sprint selling the iPhone alongside Verizon and AT&T, the No. 4 U.S.
carrier, T-Mobile USA Inc., will be left in the dust. But T-Mobile says it
isn't too worried about selling the iPhone because it's focusing on Android devices. In addition, Sprint offering the
iPhone could possibly mean more leverage for AT&T's proposed acquisition of
T-Mobile for $39 billion.
The iPhone 5 is expected to look very similar to the iPhone 4, but will possess
a new dual-core A5 ARMv7 CPU (which can be found in the iPad 2) and an 8-megapixel
camera image sensor for the rear camera. The release of the iPhone 5 will be
coupled with the launch of iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system.