One last iPhone rumor: A Sprint-exclusive iPhone 5?

Oct 4, 2011
Tech

With just hours remaining between us and Apple’s big iPhone announcement in Cupertino, California, there’s just enough time for the Internet to run off one more crazy rumor. Today’s crazy rumor: Sprint is getting the iPhone 5 exclusively (for a time, anyway), while the other carriers get the iPhone 4S. Insane, right? It sounds that […]

With just hours remaining between us and Apple’s big iPhone announcement in Cupertino, California, there’s just enough time for the Internet to run off one more crazy rumor.

Today’s crazy rumor: Sprint is getting the iPhone 5 exclusively (for a time, anyway), while the other carriers get the iPhone 4S.

Insane, right? It sounds that way to me, but considering that the Wall Street Journal is the source of at least part of this rumor – and that it’s reporting the deal between Sprint and Apple is costing Sprint an estimated $20 billion – there might be something to it.

According to the WSJ story, Sprint is betting the farm on getting the iPhone 5 in its stable. With it, the No. 3 carrier hopes to revitalize itself, bringing in new customers and poaching them from Verizon and AT&T, which have enjoyed the iPhone for most of this year and since it was released, respectively. The WSJ reports that Sprint has committed to buying 30.5 million iPhones during the next four years, and it’ll be 2014 before the cellular carrier turns a profit on the iPhones (not to mention that if the iPhones don’t sell, Sprint is still stuck with them).

As TechCrunch points out, that’s a huge investment for Sprint, but one that the company’s board of directors has reportedly agreed to. The iPhone has been strong for both AT&T and Verizon, with the latter claiming the release of the CDMA iPhone 4 earlier this year set records for its phone sales. Sprint is banking on success with a subset of its customers that has been adamantly calling for Apple’s device, and it is committed to offering unlimited data plans for its devices, something neither of the other two iPhone carriers offer any longer.

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The Sprint deal story is out there, but not necessarily outside of the realm of possibility (although $20 billion seems too high for the company to be able to invest, even over the term of several years). Here’s where it goes a little nuts, though: Boy Genius Report has a story claiming that not only did the Sprint deal with Apple happen, but as part of the terms, Apple is allowing Sprint to be the exclusive carrier for the iPhone 5. Here’s a quote from that story:

I have been told that Sprint will be getting the iPhone 5 — yes the real iPhone 5, not the iPhone 4S — as an exclusive. And it will be a 4G WiMAX device. AT&T and Verizon would launch the iPhone 4S and get the iPhone 5 some time in the first quarter of next year as an LTE device. Globally, the iPhone 5 might be available as a 4G HSPA+ device.

That’s a monster deal for Sprint, if it’s true, and it might even make that $20 billion investment pay some serious dividends up front. It would help Sprint bring in a lot of customers right away, solidify it as a player in the iPhone wars currently going on between AT&T and Verizon, and possibly give it a leg up going forward. It’s also really hard to believe.

Even at the astronomical price tag, itself a bit tough to swallow, it seems like Apple would be kind of crazy to basically torpedo its relationships with both AT&T and Verizon. And with Google’s Android marketing system steadily increasing its market share, wouldn’t Apple be leaving its loyal customers to get upset and grab an Android instead?

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It’s a strange thing to analyze, especially when you compare Apple’s potential gains against that supposed $20 billion guarantee. We haven’t got long to wait to find out what’s truth and what’s just hot air, but as far as this one goes, I can’t help but be skeptical.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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