Opinion Brief

Will the iPhone do Sprint any good?

The nation's third largest carrier will reportedly offer Apple's beloved smartphone this fall, potentially attracting new customers — and new problems

The tech world was atwitter yesterday over reports in The Wall Street Journal that Sprint, the country's third largest mobile carrier, will soon join AT&T and Verizon in offering the iPhone. According to the WSJ, "people familiar with the matter" say that Sprint will start selling the newest iPhone in mid-October. If so, will an Apple collaboration be good for Sprint, which has been suffering a decline in subscribers?

This will make Sprint competitive (again): "With its own iPhone, Sprint might be able to stop the hemorrhaging of subscribers," says Scott Canon in The Kansas City Star. The carrier's lower rates and unlimited data plan might even help it steal iPhone customers away from AT&T and Verizon. Worth noting: Wall Street responded positively to the news, with Sprint's stock ticking up more than 10 percent yesterday. "Report of Sprint deal to sell iPhone has people talking"

It's not that simple: "While Sprint may sell a whole lot of iPhones this year, Apple may not necessarily be escorting Sprint to Camelot," says Roger Cheng at CNET. First off, carriers have to fork over hundreds of dollars to Apple to subsidize each iPhone. Second, a sudden wave of iPhone subscribers could also strain Sprint's 3G network and force it to abandon its touted unlimited data plan. Then again, the iPhone is no longer a guaranteed draw. When AT&T was the exclusive partner, the iPhone offered a clear competitive advantage. No more."Sprint iPhone brings its share of problems"

Forget Sprint, this is bad for Apple: While this is a logical step for Apple, it comes at the expense of the iPhone's valuable exclusivity, says Andrew Nusca at ZD Net. For the past three years, the iPhone has been the "smartphone industry's hottest attraction," building "its esteemed reputation by making sure it doesn't let everyone in." As the iPhone becomes more widely available, Apple will have to work harder to make customers happy and differentiate itself from the competition. "With Sprint, Apple's iPhone loses exclusive sheen"

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