Apple Could Add T-Mobile as iPhone Carrier, Says Analyst

Apple could add T-Mobile as a carrier for the iPhone in the U.S., suggests Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, perhaps by the first half of 2011. Wu believes that T-Mobile's use of similar cellular technology to current iPhone carrier AT&T, combined with T-Mobile's backing of frequencies supported by the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, could be key reasons behind such a move. Apple CEO Steve Jobs debuted the iPhone 4, the company's next-generation smartphone, during his keynote address June 7 at the WWDC.

Apple could potentially add T-Mobile as a carrier for its popular iPhone in the United States, according to a June 10 research note by Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu, perhaps as soon as the first half of next year. That note comes days after Apple rolled out the iPhone 4, the next in its line of popular smartphones.

"From our understanding, this is becoming closer to reality than ever with sourcing indicating that it could happen as early as this fall or by [the first half of 2011]," Wu wrote in his research note. "While the general consensus is around Verizon (which we believe will happen eventually), we continue to believe that T-Mobile USA is the most likely candidate given its use of similar cellular technology such as AT&T."

In addition, Wu wrote, "we are picking up that T-Mobile views the iPhone as key in winning back lost customers and as such could be more likely to agree to [Apple's] terms." T-Mobile currently supports 1,700MHz and 2,100MHz frequencies, the latter of which is supported by the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.

Part of the reason for an additional carrier, Wu theorizes, could be Apple's need to stay abreast of the increasingly competitive consumer smartphone market, where the company finds itself challenged not only by traditional competitors such as RIM's BlackBerry franchise, but also by the growing family of Google Android devices.

"While we believe the iPhone 4, as a significant upgrade, will likely see great success at AT&T driven by upgrades, we believe [Apple] ultimately needs to sign an additional U.S. carrier to sustain its high growth rates," Wu wrote. "Our sources also indicate that one of the key reasons why [Apple] is more open to adding U.S. carriers in 2011 is to attack Android more directly. ... Android's wins have been where iPhone isn't available and that could change dramatically if the iPhone were available on more carriers."

During a June 7 presentation at Apple's 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the iPhone 4 represents "the biggest leap since the original iPhone," according to a live transcript of the event, adding: "This is beyond doubt one of the most precise, beautiful things we've ever done."

The smartphone includes a rear-facing camera capable of shooting 30-frame-per-second HD video at 720p, a larger battery capable of 7 hours of talk time, a front-facing camera for video conferencing and a built-in three-axis gyroscope. In addition, Jobs also revealed a new feature called FaceTime, which lets users make video calls via WiFi.

The iPhone 4 will be available starting June 24 in either black or white. The 16GB version will retail for $199, and the 32GB version for $299, with a two-year contract through AT&T. Apple has lowered the price for its preceding smartphone model, the iPhone 3GS, to $99 for the 8GB model, while selling the 16GB version for $149 and the 32GB version for $199 with free shipping.