Sprint Joins Apple's iPhone Crowd

by Ryan Cole

Sprint Joins Apple's iPhone Crowd

by Ryan Cole, Investment U Research

Friday, August 26, 2011

And now they're all on board.

According to reports, Sprint (NYSE: S) is going to get the iPhone 5 in mid-October, making it the last of the big three to gain access to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) bestselling device.

Some are disappointed that Apple's newest phone won't be out in late September, as previously speculated. Fueling that speculation - in addition to various supposed leaks of supply manufacturers and those "familiar with the matter" - was a comment by Apple's CFO, saying that a major product unveiling would affect Apple's sales in the current quarter, which ends in September.

Most likely, CFO Peter Oppenheimer was talking about the iPhone 5, and supply problems have simply pushed back its release.

However, other possibilities exist...

Apple Continues to Surprise Pundits

The newest iPad could come out at any time: Most thought December or January more likely, but this wouldn't be the first time Apple surprised pundits.

Rumors of an Apple HD television are growing in volume - though most put that possibility well into next year.

There are also unconfirmed rumors that Apple has a new addition to its Mac line to unveil, or perhaps a revamp of one or more current computers and/or laptops.

Who knows? Apple is one of the best companies at keeping its secrets, and if something new is coming out in September, it'll be a surprise.

But let's turn our attention back to the iPhone 5...

The Apple iPhone's Winners and Loser

Sprint is, of course, a big winner if it grabs the iPhone. Shares soared over 10 percent on Tuesday when the markets heard The Wall Street Journal report, as expectations ran high.

Apple should be happy, as well. The more subscribers the company has access to, the better. Sprint may only be the third-largest wireless carrier, but it still has 95 million subscribers.

Consumers should be winners, too. Sprint has long had the cheapest rates - especially for data plans - and a cheaper option can only be a good thing. Pressure may mount on AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) to lower their own rates in order to keep subscribers from jumping ship.

But, surprisingly, AT&T may wind up a winner. Sprint's addition to the Apple fold strengthens AT&T's chances of an uncontested merger with T-Mobile. The greater the competition, the less monopolistic the merger looks.

Verizon is the biggest loser in this deal. It only had a small window as the new kid on the block, gaining the iPhone 4 less than a year ago. It has the highest prices of any of the carriers, especially when it comes to data plans (which are essential for smartphones). And its edge in coverage is narrowing, if it exists at all at this point.

If there are to be mass defections, they are more likely to come from Verizon than AT&T. Both because AT&T prices are closer to Sprint's, and because Verizon runs on the same sort of network as Sprint. Families can switch over, and still use existing phones (and Sprint's family plans are the best in the business). If customers can be convinced that Sprint's coverage is adequate, the addition of the iPhone may just keep the company relevant.

Regardless, you can't really be a competitor in the wireless space today without an Apple iPhone. Sprint may have just gotten a new lease on life.

Good investing,

Ryan Cole

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