Sprint recently renewed a $100 discount on any new phone to any new customer who switches a phone number from another carrier to Sprint.
The offer took effect Aug. 30, but analysts believe it was designed to largely impact Friday retail sales of the 16GB iPhone 5c essentially making the colorful new plastic-backed $99 phones free with a two-year contract.
The "switch and save up to $100" offer applies to any Sprint phone with a two-year service plan, but Sprint's home page now features the iPhone 5c prominently with the $100 off offer just below. The offer doesn't apply to existing Sprint customers.
Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat said a similar $100 discount offer was made by Sprint a few months ago, adding, "We have started it back up." The timing before Friday's iPhone 5c and 5s retail sales caught the eye of some analysts, who wondered whether other carriers will follow suit.
"This offer is interesting. Sprint is using the new iPhone rollout to get customers to switch to them from competitors," said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst.
Kagan said AT&T and Verizon Wireless could respond in kind, which would start "a real war." Competitors did not respond when queried about Sprint's move.
Sprint's latest offer and recent unsubsidized no-contract offers from T-Mobile US led Kagan to declare: "Both Sprint and T-Mobile seem to be growing some real marketing courage lately and going for the throat. As in any street brawl, you always wonder who will win."
Sprint said the $100 offer applies to sales on its Web site and in Sprint stores and some partner stores, as well as through telesales. Sales of the iPhone have done well for Sprint since the carrier first offered the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S two years ago; Sprint recently divulged that 40% of its new iPhone customers are new to Sprint.
The $100 offer doesn't apply to the $36 activation fee or taxes and service charges. The offer ends Oct. 10. In fine print on its Web site, Sprint said it "may require" bringing in an active number from another carrier.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.