An iPhone for Sprint? Unlikely, but maybe a WebOS device from HP
Gadget watchers focus on a Sprint announcement set for February
Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- Verizon Wireless is expected to get Apple's iPhone early this year, but what about Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest carrier?
On its face, the idea of Sprint offering the iPhone seems unlikely, but at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week, rumors swirled that a Sprint announcement set for February might be about that very subject.
However, it seems more plausible that Sprint's February announcement could involve WebOS devices from Hewlett-Packard, one respected analyst said. HP last year purchased Palm, the maker of the WebOS operating system, and has yet to launch a device on that platform.
Analyst Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates summarized the feelings of several analysts attending CES by saying, "I'd be quite surprised to see a WiMax/Sprint iPhone." Gold added that it is more important for Apple to place the iPhone with Verizon, and for Apple to eventually produce an LTE-based iPhone.
Gold said he was "not sure what Sprint will announce in February exactly," but he noted that HP is also planning a major announcement in early February. "So maybe Sprint will carry WebOS devices," he said.
What makes the iPhone-on-Sprint scenario unlikely is that Sprint is devoted to WiMax and is selling three WiMax-ready smartphones, including the HTC Evo Shift 4G announced Thursday, bringing the total number of WiMax devices on the market to 17.
The coming Research in Motion PlayBook tablet will also run on WiMax when it appears on Sprint this summer.
Clearly, Sprint is solidly committed to WiMax, which is rolled out in 71 U.S. cities. Sprint first launched the technology in Baltimore in October 2008.
It also seems unlikely Apple would want to make an iPhone for WiMax, especially since WiMax will have a much smaller global market share than the next-generation wireless technology, LTE, which Verizon began rolling out in December.
Today, the iPhone is sold exclusively by AT&T in the U.S. The smartphone runs on AT&T's GSM-based network, not on the CDMA-based networks that Sprint and Verizon are using while they upgrade to WiMax and LTE, respectively. AT&T's exclusive contract as the sole wireless carrier for the iPhone is widely expected to expire in the not-too-distant future, possibly before March.
Even though it seems unlikely that Sprint could sell an iPhone, there was mounting speculation among analysts and others at CES that that could happen. Coupled with a rumor of a big Sprint device announcement coming in New York in February, the reports of an iPhone on Sprint seemed tantalizing, if improbable, to some analysts and reporters.
In an interview with reporters from Computerworld and Gizmodo on Thursday, Sprint's vice president of consumer acquisition, David Owens, was asked if the carrier would ever sell an iPhone. He didn't say yes or no.
"I have nothing to say about that," Owens said. "My [public relations] folks won't let me talk about that," he added, gesturing to two Sprint spokeswomen sitting nearby.
Owens conceded that there will be a special new device coming from Sprint, but Sprint wouldn't officially confirm anything further.
Given the Sprint-iPhone rumor, it's probably appropriate that a magician introduced Sprint CEO Dan Hesse at a Thursday dinner party that Sprint hosted for reporters and analysts at the Wynn Resort's Tryst nightclub.
As the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, Sprint is always on the prowl to take on its two larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Hesse didn't offer any comments on the iPhone, but he touted Sprint's growing number of WiMax devices and his assistants showed several other products, including wireless gear for monitoring everything from an individual's fitness level to a company's fleet of trucks.
Hesse also drew attention to a Windows Phone 7 slider smartphone under development at Sprint; the device was passed around to dinner guests, but it hasn't been officially named or announced.
Owens said the wide variety of devices that Sprint sells is helping to boost Sprint's subscriber base and has helped raise confidence within the ranks at Sprint. "We feel we have a lot of momentum," he said.
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 email@example.com.
- Five questions for IT from CES
- Visual tour: Top tablets from CES
- CES: 11 tablets worth watching
- CES in 2011 was likely biggest in three years, says CEA
- Lenovo looks at tablets to expand mobile operations
- CES: Hard drive withstands drops, submersion, gunfire
- CES 2011 daily video update: Green computing, Ludacris headphones and wireless charging
- Intel says Light Peak interconnect technology is ready
- Microsoft's slow, steady tablet strategy a big gamble
- CES 2011 daily video update: Panasonic TV tablet, Verizon 4G phones, Ford cars
Read more about Smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Streamline Data Protection with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) has been an industry-standard data protection solution for two decades. But, where most competitors focus exclusively on Backup...
- Simplify and Consolidate Data Protection for Better Business Results Learn about IBM® Tivoli® Storage Manager Operations Center, which provides advanced visualization, built-in analytics and integrated workflow automation features that leapfrog traditional backup...
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data...
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Smartphones White Papers | Webcasts