Apple Sale of Unlocked iPhone 5s Is a Big Opportunity for T-Mobile
NEWS ANALYSIS: Whether T-Mobiles plans to sell the iPhone 5 rather than just try to attract buyers of unlocked iPhones remains unclear. But one way or the other, the iPhone is sure to figure prominently in T-Mobile’s business plans.T-Mobile customers finally have a way to buy Apple’s iPhone 5, although it may not be through T-Mobile just yet. Apple quietly started selling unlocked iPhone 5s in both black and white colors in stores and online. These phones are identical to the GSM phones sold for use with AT&T’s network, except they’re not locked, there’s no contract and there’s no nano-SIM card. An unlocked iPhone will set you back about $650. While there have been rumors fueled by a prediction from a Merrill-Lynch analyst that T-Mobile would start selling the iPhone this week, eWEEK was unable to confirm that with T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who said in an email that he couldn’t comment about the iPhone at this time. However, T-Mobile has already refarmed its HSPA+ network in 15 major cities including New York, Washington, San Francisco and (interestingly) Cupertino, Calif. – home of Apple. T-Mobile’s refarming means that the iPhone 5 will work with T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network at speeds up to 22.2 megabits per second, even in areas such as Washington, where the available speed is much higher. The iPhone 5 should also be compatible with T-Mobile’s LTE service when it’s launched in the second half of 2013.
While T-Mobile isn’t ready to announce any specific deals with Apple, the carrier is selling the nano-SIM cards necessary to make the unlocked iPhone 5 phones work on the T-Mobile network. Customers can buy those SIMs for pre-paid service or for a postpaid account, according to several staffers at T-Mobile stores in the Washington, DC, area, all of whom acknowledged that they have the nano-SIMs in stock. T-Mobile usually doesn’t charge for new SIM cards to existing customers, although one sales person told eWEEK that there would be a $20 charge for the nano-SIM.