This fall, Sprint became the third U.S. carrier to offer the smartphone. Sprint is the third large largest carrier in the country and the only one to coninute to offer unlimited data plans to new customers – a point that Sprint makes in most of its advertising.
Sprint talked about the iPhone’s impact as part of its quarterly earnings Tuesday. Although Sprint reported large overall net loss of income, the company maintains that the launch of the iPhone was a success. It’s important to note that the iPhone, while helping Sprting add customers, was a factor than the larger than typical net loss, whichthe company expects to recoup in future quarters. Spint sold a total of 1.8 million iPhones during the holiday quarter – 40% of which were to new customers. An influx of new customers is common for many carriers when they initially launch the iPhone. Although the sales are notable for Sprint, they are lower than iPhone sales for both AT&T and Verizon. Those carriers saw sales of 7.6 million and 4.3 million iPhones respectively.
The iPhone’s impact on Sprint’s short-term bottom line was pretty hefty with the carrier laying out $20 billion this fall to land an agreement with Apple to sell the device. Sprint admitted to Reuters this fall that pays a 40% heavier subsidy for each iPhone it sells than it does for other smartphones and that it doesn’t expect to see beneifts outweighing the cost it pays for the iPhone until 2015.
Sprint continues to offer new iPhone customers unlimited data despite a recent flap in which its CEO implied that the company was throttling heavy users. That issue was later calrified as being related to data roaming. Whether Spring can ultimately sustain unlimited data for the iPhone and other smartphones is an open question, particularly since it has moved to tiered data for non-handset devices.