Sprint iPhone 5 Could Boost Carrier Sales by Millions: Analyst

Sprint carrying the iPhone 5 could boost sales of the next-generation device by 6 million units, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Following a Wall Street Journal report that Sprint will offer Apple's next-generation iPhone, analysts immediately began dissecting the potential impact for the carrier.

The WSJ relied on anonymous "people familiar with the matter" for its information. If verified, Sprint would join Verizon and AT&T in offering the iPhone. Up until now, the nation's third-largest carrier had relied on a portfolio of high-end Android smartphones built to leverage its 4G network.

But that could change-and Sprint could benefit from millions of iPhone sales.

"While not in our model, adding Sprint could add 6 [million] units to our [calendar year 2012] iPhone estimate, taking growth from 30 percent to 37 percent," Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in an Aug. 23 research note.

That 6-million-unit figure comes by "using Verizon as a proxy to adoption at Sprint," he explained. "We expect 11 percent of phones sold at Verizon will be iPhones ... if 11 percent of Sprint's phones sold in [calendar year 2012] were iPhones, that would add 6 [million] iPhones to our estimate."

(Piper Jaffray, by its own admission in the research note's boilerplate, "seeks to do business" with the companies dissected by its analysts, something that could "affect the objectivity of this report.")

However, other analysts offered a more tempered outlook. Nomura Securities analyst Mike McCormack told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that the iPhone would help Sprint only if new customers came at the expense of AT&T and Verizon.

For weeks, rumors have circulated that Apple intends to release the next iPhone, popularly dubbed "iPhone 5," sometime in September or October. Possible features include Apple's proprietary A5 processor, 8-megapixel camera and other hardware. More of a certainty is that it'll run iOS 5, a major update to the company's mobile operating system.

Meanwhile, a new Reuters report, paraphrasing two unnamed people "with knowledge of the situation," claims that Apple is prepping a low-priced version of the iPhone 4 for the lower end of the smartphone market. This cheaper device will supposedly include an 8GB flash drive, notably smaller than extant drive capacities on the current iPhone 4.

"Apple may want to push into the emerging market segment where customers want to switch to low- to mid-end smartphones from high-end feature phones, which usually cost $150-200," Yuanta Securities analyst Bonnie Chang told the news service. "But I think for an 8GB iPhone 4 the price is hard to go below $200, so Apple will still need a completely new phone with low specifications for the emerging markets."

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