In addition to pushing out yet another generation of high-end Android smartphones, Sprint is apparently testing a version of Apple's iPhone for its network. At least, that's the rumor currently drifting around the Web, which has its genesis in a report on the Apple-centric blog 9to5Mac.
"The physical design of the device is akin to the iPhone 4 of today, so this might be the iPhone 4S device with support for all carriers that we have been dreaming up and hearing whispers about," read the blog's June 8 posting on the matter. "Apple is said to have ordered Sprint-compatible cell towers for use on their campus-for testing-in late 2010."
The blog added that the Sprint iPhone in testing "does not feature support for 4G bands."
AT&T and Verizon currently offer the iPhone in the United States. If AT&T succeeds in acquiring T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock, it would make Sprint the only carrier in this country without Apple's bestselling smartphone in its portfolio. Sprint has been arguing strenuously against AT&T's plans.
"AT&T is simply seeking a government bailout for problems of its own making and expects the cost of the bailout to be shouldered by American consumers," read a May statement by Vonya McCann, senior vice president of government affairs for Sprint. "Instead of paying Deutsche Telekom [owners of T-Mobile] $39 billion, AT&T could invest a fraction of that amount to expand its LTE deployment to nearly all Americans."
For the past few months, Sprint executives have remained notably tight-lipped about any potential iPhone deal. When asked about that possibility during the carrier's most recent earnings call, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse suggested he was unable to comment on "potential discussions" with any suppliers, before joking: "What is it, like the fifty-fifth time I've been asked that?"
Sprint currently offers a line of 4G smartphones with some unique aesthetics and features. During a high-profile June 9 event in New York City, the carrier introduced two new Android devices: the Motorola Photon 4G, a touch-screen device with a dual-core processor and Android 2.3, and the Motorola Triumph, an Android 2.2 device for Virgin Mobile. Both devices will be available this summer, at an unannounced price point.
The Photon is Sprint's first dual-core smartphone. It features a 4.3-inch screen and a powerful 8-megapixel rear camera. Via the Webtop application (and a special smartphone dock), Photon users can access and create content on a larger screen. It also boasts a kickstand for hands-free viewing, presumably for those smartphone users who like to use their devices for watching movies and television shows while on the move.
Rumors suggest that Apple will ship the iPhone 5 sometime in the fall timeframe, meaning that production for the device will ramp up sometime in either July or August. Sources have also hinted to other publications that the smartphone will hit store shelves sometime closer to the end of 2011.
Rumored features of the iPhone 5 include an A5 processor, more powerful cameras, and perhaps NFC (near-field communication) technology, which would allow the smartphone to act as an electronic wallet. All those features would give Apple the capability to compete more fiercely against the higher-end Android smartphones, whose hardware and software are becoming increasingly robust.