T-Mobile US rumored to get Apple's iPhone 3GS, but not iPhone 4

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A new rumor shared by the editor-in-chief of Wired suggests that T-Mobile, the smallest of the four major cell phone carriers in the U.S., will offer the iPhone 3GS later this year, but not the iPhone 4.



"A T-Mobile manager casually mentioned to me that they're going to get the iPhone 3GS (but not 4, oddly) later this year," Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, posted on his Twitter account this week. "Common knowledge?"



As noted by Silicon Alley Insider, the posting is curious because Anderson opted to turn to Twitter rather than have one of his reporters file a story for the magazine. The approach would suggest that the editor's confidence in the rumor is questionable.



However, rumors of a partnership between Apple and T-Mobile are nothing new. In July, it was alleged that the two companies were in "advanced talks" to bring the iPhone to T-Mobile this fall.



Anderson's rumor implies that those talks are only for last year's iPhone model, and not the newly released iPhone 4. Rival carrier AT&T still sells an 8GB iPhone 3GS at an entry-level $99 price with a two-year contract.



T-Mobile U.S. is owned by Germany's Deutsche Telekom, which is expected to lose exclusivity of the iPhone in its native country by October. Currently, AT&T is the sole carrier of the iPhone in the U.S., but rumors of a jump to other carriers have persisted for years.



One major hurdle preventing a multi-carrier iPhone in the U.S. is the technical limitation of a SIM card-based iPhone, the only model Apple currently produces. The existing iPhone hardware is not compatible with carriers who rely on CDMA wireless technology, like Verizon and Sprint.



T-Mobile U.S., however, uses the same UMTS/HSPA technology as AT&T, though it relies on different frequencies. T-Mobile's 3G service supports the 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands, while AT&T supports 850MHz and 1900MHz. The current iPhone hardware does not support the 1700MHz frequency, meaning a modification of the hardware would be necessary.



That technical limitation, however, is minor compared to the major overhaul that would be required to produce a CDMA-compatible iPhone. Because of this, some Wall Street analysts believe a deal with T-Mobile is a more likely option for Apple as it looks to expand carriers in the U.S.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,977member
    But why the 3GS? If true, it might have something to do with the last vestiges of the contract with AT&T.
  • Reply 2 of 58
    Would seem rather an odd way to go - I assume only the 8GB phone?
  • Reply 3 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The current iPhone hardware does not support the 1700MHz frequency, meaning a modification of the hardware would be necessary.



    That technical limitation, however, is minor compared to the major overhaul that would be required to produce a CDMA-compatible iPhone. Because of this, some Wall Street analysts believe a deal with T-Mobile is a more likely option for Apple as it looks to expand carriers in the U.S.



    Does anybody know what Sprint uses?



    If they use 1700MHz, then you could use Virgin Mobile's $25/ month plan and get unlimited text, web, etc. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network.



    Anybody know?
  • Reply 4 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Newtron View Post


    Does anybody know what Sprint uses?



    If they use 1700MHz, then you could use Virgin Mobile's $25/ month plan and get unlimited text, web, etc. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network.



    Anybody know?



    Sprint (and Virgin) use CDMA2000 1x-evdo on the PCS (1900 MHz) band. They do not use GSM/UTMS.
  • Reply 5 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The existing iPhone hardware is not compatible with carriers who rely on CDMA wireless technology, like Verizon and Sprint. ][/url][/c]



    The existing iPhone hardware is not compatible with carriers who rely on CDMA wireless technology, like Verizon and Sprint.
  • Reply 6 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    But why the 3GS? If true, it might have something to do with the last vestiges of the contract with AT&T.



    Likely you are correct.



    I think that the 3GS is a lot like the old '486 computers - the first one that was powerful enough to be interesting to lots of people. It's possible that Apple did some kind of contract renewal at the time of the 3GS release, and realizing the potential popularity and staying power of the 3GS, limited future exclusivity to x period of time after release. Maybe they did something similar for the iP4?



    18 months? June, 2009 3GS release? Maybe we'll see the end of exclusivity for the 3GS starting in January 2011?
  • Reply 7 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bcahill009 View Post


    The existing iPhone hardware is not compatible with carriers who rely on CDMA wireless technology, like Verizon and Sprint.



    Oops. Thanks.
  • Reply 8 of 58
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    I'd still hop on that with T-Mobile. They still need to optimize the iOS further than they have with 4.1 though. It still looks slow in some cases as seen on many blogs.
  • Reply 9 of 58
    However, I read somewhere that T-Mobile has a smaller 3G footprint and is slower since it does not support HSDPA (7.2MB)....unlike AT&T. The 3GS would not be able to utilize this higher speed service on T-Mobile.
  • Reply 10 of 58
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,109member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    But why the 3GS? If true, it might have something to do with the last vestiges of the contract with AT&T.



    Absolutely. This could be a work-around for the at&t exclusivity agreement. It also means the end of agreement is probably near. Even though I'm an at&t employee I can't wait to see the end. Then we'll finally know if Android is all it's cracked up to be. We'll also know if some of the reported problems are network or device related. iPhone users apparently gobble a lot more bandwidth than other device users. When the iPhone is finally available on all the major U.S. carriers it will confirm or finally lay to rest all the FUD that's been spread around thickly for the last three years.



    Or maybe not. FUD has a life of its own.
  • Reply 11 of 58
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    That technical limitation, however, is minor compared to the major overhaul that would be required to produce a CDMA-compatible iPhone.



    I still don't understand why people say this is a "major overhaul"? The phone-specific components are a relatively small portion of the overall iPhone hardware/software. Those cheapo/free phones you can get from any carrier come in both GSM and CDMA varieties. So why is this stated to be such a huge challenge for Apple? Different antenna, different cellular radio, different drivers in the OS to interact with the radio. But everything else can be 100% transfered from the GSM iPhone.



    I'm not saying it's trivial, but it's certainly not a "major overhaul".
  • Reply 12 of 58
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Absolutely. This could be a work-around for the at&t exclusivity agreement. It also means the end of agreement is probably near. Even though I'm an at&t employee I can't wait to see the end. Then we'll finally know if Android is all it's cracked up to be. We'll also know if some of the reported problems are network or device related. iPhone users apparently gobble a lot more bandwidth than other device users. When the iPhone is finally available on all the major U.S. carriers it will confirm or finally lay to rest all the FUD that's been spread around thickly for the last three years.



    Or maybe not. FUD has a life of its own.



    There was a study about a month or so ago that said Android users used more data than iPhone users (I blame all the flash crap that gets loaded when they view web pages ). But I agree, once there is an iPhone on Verizon we'll see how the networks each hold up.
  • Reply 13 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    But why the 3GS? If true, it might have something to do with the last vestiges of the contract with AT&T.



    Just guessing, but probably easier to interrupt the 3GS production which is winding down(sort of) versus the iphone 4 production which is still ramping up to meet demand.

    Plus 3GS is a good test the waters scenario. But IMO they have a iphone 4 t-mobile ready to go as well as the CDMA versions. Just a matter of contracts etc. January will be interesting.
  • Reply 14 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Newtron View Post


    Does anybody know what Sprint uses?



    If they use 1700MHz, then you could use Virgin Mobile's $25/ month plan and get unlimited text, web, etc. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network.



    Anybody know?



    This is exactly what I would like to do some day... don't know if it will ever be possible.
  • Reply 15 of 58
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    But why the 3GS? If true, it might have something to do with the last vestiges of the contract with AT&T.



    I teach law and this theory doesn't make any sense to me.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by noexpectations View Post


    However, I read somewhere that T-Mobile has a smaller 3G footprint and is slower since it does not support HSDPA (7.2MB)....unlike AT&T. The 3GS would not be able to utilize this higher speed service on T-Mobile.



    This makes some sense. T-Mobile might want to start with the 3GS because they don't want to suddenly overload their network. Apple might want to start with the 3GS if they have a large inventory of 3GS phones to liquidate. Either way, I would not expect T-Mobile to sell only the 3GS model for more than several months.
  • Reply 16 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,977member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by boeyc15 View Post


    Just guessing, but probably easier to interrupt the 3GS production which is winding down(sort of) versus the iphone 4 production which is still ramping up to meet demand.

    Plus 3GS is a good test the waters scenario. But IMO they have a iphone 4 t-mobile ready to go as well as the CDMA versions. Just a matter of contracts etc. January will be interesting.



    My thought is that the agreement might allow last years model to be sold on another carrier. This might be a newer provision. Just a guess. But AT&T would have to allow it. If the phone arrives before 2011, when the phone is predicted to be on Verizon, that could be why.
  • Reply 17 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,977member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    I teach law and this theory doesn't make any sense to me.



    I don't know what your teaching law has to do with this. I had two businesses over a period of 36 years, and I think I know more about contracts than you do from what you're saying here. It could be very likely that Apple and AT&T have renegotiated their contract at least one time. In fact, it's supposed that the reason why AT&T gave a monthly contract for iPad use is for an elongation of that contract for some time. So it's quite possible that that renegotiation also resulted in Apple being allowed to sell last years model to another USA based carrier.



    But I suppose you don't think that's LEGALLY possible.
  • Reply 18 of 58
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    I suppose you don't think that's LEGALLY possible.



    Legally possible? Yes, it's legally possible. Is it plausible? I don't think so.
  • Reply 19 of 58
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 1,041member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post


    I still don't understand why people say this is a "major overhaul"? The phone-specific components are a relatively small portion of the overall iPhone hardware/software. Those cheapo/free phones you can get from any carrier come in both GSM and CDMA varieties. So why is this stated to be such a huge challenge for Apple? Different antenna, different cellular radio, different drivers in the OS to interact with the radio. But everything else can be 100% transfered from the GSM iPhone.



    I'm not saying it's trivial, but it's certainly not a "major overhaul".



    Remember, the iPhone isn't a cheapo/free phone. There are features that require carrier support like Visual Voicemail and data+voice simultaneously. The phone itself may not need a ton of re-engineering, but the carrier's network might which has to be at least as difficult a task as redoing the phone's innards.
  • Reply 20 of 58
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    Legally possible? Yes, it's legally possible. Is it plausible? I don't think so.



    What's so hard to understand? AT&T kicks back a ton of money to Apple to retain exclusivity.
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