IPhone 5 reportedly a Sprint exclusive

Sprint also struck $20B, four-year deal with Apple, second report claims

Sprint is expected to get the iPhone 5 exclusively from Apple to run over its 4G WiMax network, according to a report Monday from BGR.com.

Meanwhile, a separate report -- this one from the Wall Street Journal -- indicated Sprint has agreed to pay Apple $20 billion for 30.5 million iPhones over four years.

The two reports together might make some sense, given Sprint's desperation to get an iPhone to sell for the first time, according to several analysts.

But they don't expect Sprint to do well with an iPhone running on WiMax, partly because WiMax on smartphones is losing steam in the U.S. Sprint is also expected to launch its own LTE 4G initiative next year in recognition of WiMax's waning value.

"Until Sprint gets LTE, it has an inferior network experience compared to Verizon and AT&T," which have both launched LTE networks, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"I don't think an iPhone 5 on WiMax for Sprint makes sense," Gold said. "I don't know why Apple would put out a WiMax phone when it won't play in many other markets in the world. At this point, WiMax is pretty much a lost cause in the U.S. for smartphones. I can't see Sprint going anywhere with WiMax as a competitive threat."

Gold said that Sprint could indeed be paying Apple $20 billion over four years for some version of the iPhone, although that would be expensive compared to speculation abouyt multi-year agreements that other carriers such as Verizon and AT&T reached with Apple for the iPhone.

"It means that Sprint has to sell a lot of iPhones," Gold added.

Sprint said it would not comment on the speculation.

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 e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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