Sprint Nextel Corp. will begin selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October, people familiar with the matter said, closing a huge hole in the No. 3 U.S. carrier’s lineup and giving Apple Inc. another channel for selling its popular phone.
The timing, however, indicates Apple’s new iPhone will hit the market later than expected and too late to contribute to sales in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, which ends in September. Most observers had expected the device to arrive next month.
Much speculation has surrounded the release of the next-generation iPhone, which was expected to debut during the summer as every previous iPhone, though the launch didn’t materialize and Apple decided to focus the WWDC (the iPhone’s typical announcement stage) on software instead. Since then, rumors have failed to pinpoint an exact release date for the iPhone, with different sources claiming a September or October launch. It is not clear whether Apple would use its typical media event in September only to launch the device in October – what seems fairly certain is that the iPhone 5 will come equipped with a new version of iOS, which is currently being tested by registered developers. Last, according to other rumors, Apple may be gearing up to release two different versions of the iPhone this fall, one aimed at pre-paid markets with a cheaper iPhone 4-like construction, and a brand new one that should indeed be the long-awaited “iPhone 5”. Confusion around alleged prototypes running a new A5 chip (the same of the iPad 2) on older iPhone 4 bodies has also contributed to making it difficult to predict the next iPhone’s form factor, leading to contradicting reports about a faster “iPhone 4S”, a completely redesigned iPhone 5, or a mix of both. Most recent rumors and case leaks from manufacturers seem to indicate the new device will feature a thinner design with tapered edges.
Amidst speculation, a few interesting reports in the past months detailed how the next-generation iPhone could end up being sold on more than two carriers in the US. Currently, the iPhone 4 is sold in two colors on two carriers, AT&T and Verizon. The CDMA iPhone, built specifically for Verizon, was also rumored to be set for an expansion to other CDMA markets, such as Asia. Back in April, BGR showed what they claimed to be a prototype iPhone running on T-Mobile’s network – AT&T later announced its plans to acquire T-Mobile and it’s unclear now whether Apple could really release a T-Mobile iPhone in late 2011 with the acquisition expected to be approved and take full action by 2012.
Rumors of a Sprint iPhone arose in mid-2010 and were reinforced earlier this year by analysts’ claims of an iPhone for Sprint during the holidays, and a job posting appeared on Apple’s website. Sprint currently has 52 million subscribers and it’s the third largest mobile operator in the United States. The WSJ also briefly mentions some hardware details of the iPhone 5:
The new iPhone is expected to be similar to the current iPhone 4, but thinner and lighter with an improved digital camera and a new more sophisticated operating system.
According to the WSJ, AT&T and Verizon will begin selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October, too. TiPB was first to report the news of a likely October 7 launch date for the iPhone 5 two weeks ago, a rumor that was also corroborated by other blogs. The iPhone 5 is said to be a “world phone” as well, with an integrated system to work both on GSM and CDMA radio channels.