Sprint to Sell Apple iPhone 5, but How Much Will It Help Sales?

Sprint-Nextel (S), the US wireless carrier also-ran, will begin to sell the Apple (AAPL) iPhone 5 in mid-October. The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T (T) Wireless and Verizon Wireless will begin to sell the smartphone at the same time. "Landing the iPhone is a big win for Sprint, whose results have suffered without being able to sell the trend-setting device," the paper says.

But will the opportunity to sell the iPhone 5 really help Sprint? AT&T has sold the iPhone for four years, and Verizon Wireless for over one year. The availability of the phone via the No. 3 wireless carrier in the country could be undercut by the fact that it will be offered by all three major carriers. AT&T is likely to takeover No. 4 carrier T-Mobile for $39 billion. The transaction should close this year.
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The presence of the iPhone 5 among Sprint's smartphone offerings cannot offset its reputation for poor customers service, although that reputation has improved recently. Sprint's 4G Wimax super-fast wireless product has not been enough to stop the number of people who desert the firm most quarters. In its last reported quarter, which ended in June, Sprint lost $847 million on revenue of $8.3 billion. Sprint lost 101,000 contract customers in the second quarter, which was more than Wall Street expected. Investors are also concerned about the rate at which Sprint is spending its cash. All of he bad news has pushed Sprint's share from nearly $6 in late May to $3.59 at yesterday's close.

If the release of a new version of the iPhone drives sales the way earlier versions did, all of the carriers that offer it should get a bump in sales or at least customers who upgrade their smartphones to the Apple product. But, the iPhone deal may come too late for Sprint. It largest competitors will have the same product, and nothing Sprint has done since it bought Nextel for $35 billion in 2004 has been able to steady its ship.
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