Does T-Mobile already have a million iPhones?
The huge number of unlocked smartphones illustrates either fans' fervor for Apple or customer dissatisfaction with AT&T and Verizon.
Apple (AAPL) iPhone fans know no bounds. Sprint (S) and T-Mobile might not formally carry the iPhone or subsidize sales of the smartphone, but that doesn't stop Apple junkies from finding a way around limitations.
Case in point: A blog post from T-Mobile this week claims that 1 million T-Mobile iPhones are already on the company's network.
This T-Mobile iPhone craze seems to be a result of devices that users "jailbreak" -- techno-speak for removing the restrictions imposed by Apple on its devices, such as limitation to a particular network -- as well as newly offered phones from Apple that come without a contract and are delivered unlocked to customers.
That 1 million T-Mobile iPhone figure is a simply stunning number. The 16-gigabyte iPhone 4 is $199 on AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), while the 32-gig Apple iPhone is $299. However, without the subsidy of the carriers, you're looking at $649 and $749 for these respective iPhones from the Apple store.
Yes, you might hate AT&T's network, but do you hate it so much that you'll dish out an extra $450?
Granted, some folks might simply be taking an old iPhone 3G to T-Mobile now that their contracts are up. Others might be finagling deals on eBay (EBAY), where you can get a "new" iPhone 3GS for about $300 or a used model for around $150.
But if T-Mobile's blog is true, it's impressive that so many people are either suffering through with older technology or getting gouged out of pocket simply to avoid AT&T and Verizon.
There's a lot of fuss being made about the potential of a Sprint iPhone, which allegedly will be unveiled in just a few weeks. Some people estimate as many as 6 million more devices will be sold as a result, and analysts are raising expectations for Apple as a result. After all, the iPhone accounts for half of Apple revenue, so a modest bump in iPhone sales would be great for the company's stock.
But you have to wonder just how much demand there is out there on these networks if hardcore iPhone fans have already found a way onto Sprint or T-Mobile. Yes, casual users might have been denied entry, but casual users probably aren't the type who will spend hours in line to get the new iPhone 5 this winter.
Apple continues to prove critics wrong and find new ways to excite its rabid base of gadget geeks. And it probably will again after the iPhone 5 launch.
Still, investors should have all the information that's out there. At the very least, the T-Mobile blog is a curiosity and testament to the lengths folks will go to for the Apple brand.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in the stocks named here. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.
One thing in the article I'm a little confused on is how, supposedly, current iPhone users could have possibly found their way onto Sprint's network.
First, GSM phones (like the AT&T iPhone), will not work on Sprint or Verizon (both of whom are CDMA). Second, Sprint does not activate Verizon phones on their network - if your ESN/MEID is not Sprint-issued, you cannot activate the phone on their network. Verizon has a comparable policy - you can't activate a Sprint phone on Verizon, either.
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