Sprint Nextel has instructed its store employees to refrain from commenting on rumors about the arrival of Apple's next-generation iPhone for Sprint's nationwide network, according to an internal Sprint memo obtained by media outlets.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the iPhone 5 would be coming to Sprint's network following the new model's release this autumn.
The iPhone rumor will undoubtedly reduce the carrier's short-term smartphone sales as subscribers delay their handset upgrades in anticipation of getting one of Apple's iconic handsets during this year's holiday shopping season. So the memo's "no comment" stance in preference for a clear denial does lend some credence to the Sprint iPhone rumor.
"If you are asked by a customer or just talking to friends or family members, you need to avoid making any comments about the iPhone," the internal SprintFeed memo advised. "If you are asked a direct question by a customer about Sprint getting the iPhone, you can simply say, 'Yes, I saw a few of those reports [but] I don't have any information to share.' "
6 Million iPhones
Piper Jaffray projects that the number of iPhone 5 units sold by Verizon Wireless during the device's first 12 months of availability will be 11 percent of the carrier's smartphone sales overall.
What's more, a recent Piper Jaffray survey found that 55 percent of Verizon subscribers who did not already have one "expect their next phone to be an iPhone." And of those, 74 percent said they were "specifically waiting for the iPhone 5," said Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy.
A Sprint iPhone deal would be good news to Apple investors, with Munster and Murphy predicting it could further boost Apple's iPhone shipments by 6 million units in 2012.
"If 11 percent of Sprint's phones sold in calendar year 2012 were iPhones, that would [increase the investment firm's] 2012 iPhone unit estimate by 5 percent, from 111 million to 117 million," the analysts said.
Even without the rumored Sprint deal, Piper Jaffray predicts Apple's iPhone shipments will grow 55 percent in the second half of this year in comparison with the year-earlier period, Murphy confirmed in an email Monday. And for all 2011, the investment firm's analysts expect iPhone growth of 81 percent in comparison with 2010.
Low Sprint Turnover
A Sprint iPhone would eliminate the temptation for some Sprint subscribers to defect to another network for one. According to Strategy Analytics, iPhones led the global smartphone field in this year's second quarter with 20.3 million unit shipments.
Still, Sprint's low subscriber turnover, or "churn," of 1.75 percent during the second quarter of 2011 was the network operator's all-time best performance. Moreover, the number of calls per customer "to customer care in the quarter, once a glaring Sprint weak spot, achieved an all-time best in the quarter -- and is now among the best-in-class in the industry," Sprint CEO Daniel Hesse told investors last month.
If Sprint does launch the iPhone 5 in October, the carrier's sterling standing with subscribers will be put to the test. The iPhone's demand on bandwidth would take its toll on Sprint's network in congested metropolitan markets, raising questions about the viability of the carrier's unlimited data plan strategy.
On the other hand, Sprint clearly values its position in the U.S. market as the only carrier offering unlimited data. "I think our new advertising and our distinct position in the market of being the only unlimited player is going to help us," Hess told investors at the end of July.
Posted: 2011-08-29 @ 5:02pm PT
Sprint: Please bring the iPhone. I'm crazy to switch from AT&T to Sprint. Do it soon!