updated 04:05 pm EDT, Tue August 23, 2011
Big rumor has iPhone reaching Sprint after all
Apple's plans to bring the iPhone to Sprint are accurate, sources gave out Tuesday. The iPhone 5 is now set to reach the third-largest US carrier at the same time as it does AT&T and Verizon, in mid-October. The WSJ sources didn't confirm T-Mobile, although a prototype has been seen.
Officially, Sprint has dodged the question but has always used the same remarks that "you'll have to ask Apple" that Verizon used when it had a certain deal and was just trying to protect sales until launch day. Apple recently recruited for a carrier engineer near Sprint's Kansas City headquarters that removed all doubt it was at least planning for a Sprint release.
Sprint won't be as vital to Apple as Verizon was earlier this year, at 52 million cellphone users versus 106 million at the bigger provider. Apple is nonetheless likely to want Sprint to keep reversing the trend towards Android in the US. HTC's Evo 4G was almost single-handedly responsible for saving Sprint from years of declining subscriber numbers, and the carrier has increasingly been seen as a hub for the platform through phones like the Evo 3D.
Google itself may have also felt that the Verizon iPhone meant an end to a safe haven for Android, where it didn't have to compete on equal terms. Observers have noted that much of Google's attention has suddenly swung to Sprint in just the past few months. It released the Nexus S 4G before AT&T and has been giving Sprint all the special access it normally reserved for T-Mobile, including Google Voice integration and the Google Wallet trial.
Rival phone makers, particularly Motorola, have lately had justification for concern. Despite their age, the iPhone 4 and 3GS are still the leading smartphones in the US and, on Verizon, have eliminated Motorola's one-time dominance. An iPhone 5 is expected to spark more interest as Verizon customers holding off until a new iPhone can finally jump in.