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Report: Sprint to offer iPhone in October

Wed, 08/24/2011 - 8:00am
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

Sprint just might land itself an iPhone or two come October, according to a Wall Street Journal report that cited people familiar with the matter.

Sprint would begin selling the new version of the iPhone, as well as the iPhone 4, in mid-October, according to the report. The move is expected to reduce Sprint's churn, by keeping customers who would otherwise go to either Verizon Wireless or AT&T for the Apple's iconic device, while simultaneously expanding Apple's market share.

Both Sprint and Apple declined to comment on the matter.

Apple is expected to roll out a new iPhone in the next couple of months. The company's COO Peter Oppenheimer confirmed in a second-quarter earnings call that Apple was preparing for a "major product transition" in the third quarter but declined to comment on the details.

Industry analyst Jeff Kagan said Sprint has a lot to gain by picking up the iPhone but stopped short of calling it the missing piece for the struggling carrier.

"This is good news for Sprint Nextel, since it fills a gaping void in their lineup, but whether or not this has a meaningful addition at this point is the question," Kagan said, noting that while AT&T has done well on the back of the iPhone, it has done so over several years.

Kagan suggests that while the iPhone has been popular with Verizon Wireless since it added the device to its portfolio, it hasn't "blown the roof off like we expected." The same, he said, could be true for Sprint.

For some perspective, AT&T sold 3.2 million iPhones in the second quarter of 2011, while Verizon sold 2.2 million of the CDMA-enabled iPhone 4 during the same period.

"This is a great device, and it will let Sprint hang on to some customers who would otherwise leave, but I don't think many customers will move to Sprint because of the iPhone. While definitely good news, I don't see this shaking the timbers at Sprint," Kagan said, noting that the carrier's biggest worry at the moment is the pending AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

While Sprint added 1 million customers in the second quarter of 2011, the company still managed to slide to a loss of $847 million. The company has also announced a deal with LightSquared to get LTE ramped up. The partnership is expected to bring in $9 billion for Sprint over the length of the deal.

News of Sprint getting an iPhone comes on the heels of various iPhone rumors yesterday that claimed Apple is working on a low-cost iPhone 4, while another report suggested the iPhone 5 will be a GSM/CDMA world phone.

Sprint's stock rose slightly on the news yesterday but remained flat today in early morning trading at $3.58 per share.

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