Get in line for an iPhone 5 now, but bring a jacket because the temperatures will have dropped a bit by the time its release date rolls around in October. The revelation has Verizon’s tog dog admitting he had no clue the delay was coming, and Sprint reps unsure what to tell their customers about it.
When Apple and Verizon collaborated on a late-cycle Verizon iPhone 4 in March, many assumed it was because both parties knew the iPhone 5 wouldn’t roll around until the fall instead of the usual summer turnover. But Verizon’s CEO has since made clear that he had been under the impression all along that the iPhone 5 would indeed be a summer product, and he went so far as to blame Verizon’s stagnant growth on its delay.
Meanwhile, Sprint reps don’t know what to tell their customers, coming up with a different story each day. Longtime iPhone partner AT&T and potential acquisition T-Mobile are also affected by the delay.
The biggest impact an October iPhone 5 release date has on any carrier, however, would appear to be Verizon. It made the calculated move to enter the iPhone arena when the iPhone 4 era was already eight months old, not wanting to wait for the 5 because it was bleeding customers to rival AT&T in the mean time.
Tired of its own failed attempts to use the Verizon Droid to try to keep would-be iPhone lusters from defecting to AT&T, Verizon wanted the iPhone right then and there. With the AT&T iPhone 4 outselling the Verizon Droid by a five to two margin, the desire was understandable. But Apple wanted no part in hyping the Verizon iPhone 4 late arrival, and left the launch event to Verizon, who fumbled it.
Now, for every Verizon customer who still has no idea there’s a Verizon iPhone on the market, there’s another who has decided to wait for the Verizon iPhone 5. No wonder Verizon’s CEO is making public excuses. But the other three carriers are also impacted.
AT&T, despite giving up iPhone exclusivity earlier this year and launching a line of Android phones, still has its fortunes tied to the iPhone. It’s the reason the carrier is seeing significant growth. But current AT&T iPhone users, even the ones who are eligible for upgrade pricing right now, are largely waiting for the iPhone 5 release date to arrive. AT&T is in the odd position of losing potential revenue from its own customers, even though they’re remaining customers.
Then there’s Sprint, which has spent four years fending off questions from its customers about when the iPhone is coming. Various Beatweek readers have informed us that Sprint’s online support reps managed to come up with different stories each day, some claiming there’s a Sprint iPhone 5 in the works, others saying it’s not going to happen and trying to sell them an Android phone instead. But even as Spring actively squirms, fellow second-tier carrier T-Mobile has a different predicament.
T-Mobile is trying to get bought out by AT&T. But if it isn’t government regulators standing in the way, it’s stock market declines creating financial complications. T-Mobile will get the iPhone 5 by default (if not immediately) if and when it becomes part of AT&T, which already has the iPhone.
But the longer the merger gets held up, the more complicated things get. T-Mobile could strike a separate iPhone 5 deal with Apple, but that deal would have to be approved by any entity interested in acquiring T-Mobile or it could be a dealbreaker. That stalemate has T-Mobile perhaps unable to start selling the iPhone 5 until the merger mess gets straightened out one way or the other.