With both The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg now reporting that Apple is considering a less-pricey iPhone for emerging markets with the unsubsidized price starting as low as $99, the question is arising which of the top wireless carriers will get the honors of launching the handset here in the U.S. And if by its very nature Apple’s upcoming new iPhone is targeted at the low-end where people are unwilling to buy heavily subsidized devices with long-term contracts, shouldn’t T-Mobile be the most logical launch partner?
Reuters yesterday reported that T-Mobile USA will start selling the iPhone “in about three to four months” and the carrier’s parent company, Germany-based Deutsche Telekom, told investors at the end of 2012 that it has “entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together next year”.
Though T-Mobile acknowledged it “would love to carry the iPhone”, clearly it wanted “the economies to be right for us”. And in light of the renewed iPhone mini talk, I’m now beginning to read this as “we don’t want to bet the company by pre-paying billions in upfront subsidy to Apple, like Sprint did”.
So maybe T-Mobile was waiting for an unsubsidized iPhone, the iPhone mini, to curb subscriber churn?
Moreover, a senior RF engineer said in August 2012 that the iPhone “is a significant part”of T-Mobile’s $4 billion network modernization project. The carrier has been aggressively rolling out its iPhone-friendly HSPA+ network on the 1900MHz band, inviting owners ofunlocked iPhones to visit its stores in order to test it out.
T-Mobile also has nano SIMs, offers free support to unlockers, hosts nearly two million iPhones and is getting ready to start rolling out 4G LTE starting with the Las Vegasmarket next month.
As if the afforementioned Apple-friendly infrastructure and service strides weren’t enough, last month came confirmation that the company was ending device subsidiesahead of the official iPhone launch. This means T-Mobile customers will be able to pay full retail prices for mobile devices in exchange for lower monthly fees.
And as other carriers like AT&T and Verizon are watching how the situation develops as they, too, might end device subsidies. Topping it all of, T-Mobile yesterday launched Unlimited Nationwide 4G data for prepaid plans. Priced at $70 per month and provided without an annual contract, the offering includes unlimited voice, text and data and is available right now.