With Apple's white iPhone 4 all but confirmed to hit store shelves in the near future, the attention of the seemingly inexhaustible Apple rumor mill has shifted to a new topic: the possibility of the iPhone on T-Mobile.
The blog Apple Insider is reporting that Apple has already begun shipping the long-delayed white iPhone 4 to U.S. retail stores, where it will apparently appear on store shelves April 27. A white iPhone 4 is not available for preorder or purchase yet from Apple's Website. Apple Insider drew its information from unnamed "people familiar with the matter."
Rumors of a T-Mobile iPhone also boiled to the surface in recent days, courtesy of an April 23 Boy Genius Report posting with images of an alleged iPhone prototype displaying T-Mobile USA 3G bands.
"The actual internal model is N94, and if you remember, the Verizon model is N92 while the standard GSM variant is N90," read the posting. "Combined with the fact that it wouldn't make sense to release an iPhone 4 on T-Mobile at this time, we'd wager that Apple is just testing the new T-Mobile-friendly radio with its current iPhone 4 hardware." That testing could be "preparation for integration in a future device."
For the moment at least, T-Mobile has been denying that the iPhone will arrive on its network anytime soon. The carrier remains the target of a $39 billion acquisition by AT&T, pending approval by government regulators. Competitors such as Sprint have made no secret of their displeasure over the potential deal.
"T-Mobile USA remains an independent company," read a note posted on T-Mobile's corporate Website in March. "The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting-edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and, coming soon, our new Sidekick 4G."
Currently, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the only two U.S. carriers to offer the iPhone, although T-Mobile subscribers in Germany can obtain one of the bestselling smartphones.
Some analysts have frowned on a T-Mobile acquisition and how it might affect competition. "The move takes out a key pricing competitor to AT&T, gives access to some key 4G technologies from T-Mobile, and clearly solidifies AT&T in the lead to the U.S. market," Ray Wang, principal analyst for Constellation Research, wrote in a March email to eWEEK soon after the potential acquisition was announced. "The bottom line: AT&T wins, customers lose."
The iPhone can clearly do substantial business on multiple carriers. In an April 21 call with analysts and media, Verizon Wireless reported some 2 million iPhone activations. Around 78 percent of the carrier's iPhone sales were upgrades, while 22 percent went to new customers. AT&T, which had an exclusive lock on the iPhone until February, also reported robust results.