All 33.7 million T-Mobile customers will have access to AT&T’s phone inventory if a controversial proposed merger gains federal approval — but some experts believe the iPhone may arrive even sooner to the discount wireless carrier.
“They’re expanding their distribution,” Carl Howe, analyst for the Hub-based Yankee Group, said of Apple. “They’re looking to have as many carri ers buying and selling iPhones as they can find.”
Howe said he suspects Apple — newly released from an exclusivity agreement with AT&T — will launch the iPhone for T-Mobile this summer. That will likely occur before the anticipated release of the next version of iPhone.
“They want to keep sales numbers up before that, and one of the easiest ways is to bring in new customers,” Howe said.
AT&T is looking to acquire T-Mobile in a $39 billion merger, which would make it the largest wireless network in the nation, surpassing Verizon.
T-Mobile would not comment on the potential iPhone development, and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
As persistent rumors suggest that iPhones will be available to T-Mobile customers in the coming months, market research suggests many consumers have already taken matters into their own hands.
As many as 4 percent, or 1.3 million, of T-Mobile’s 33.7 million customers have obtained iPhones through other means, Howe said. Some are hacked and made to work on the network, commonly called “jailbroken” or “unlocked” phones. Other customers go so far as to buy iPhones from T-Mobile’s German counterpart, devices that get spotty reception in the United States.