With the reports that Sprint will carry the iPhone 5, it’s almost certain that this coming new iPhone launch will destroy every iPhone launch before it (which have crushed every other phone launch ever). One has to wonder if Apple is up to the supply challenge, but also if their competition is ready to face an Apple that isn’t holding back.
Let’s face it, until recently Apple has been fighting the smartphone war with one hand tied behind its back. While BlackBerry and others from the old guard have been a mainstay on all the major U.S. carriers for years and Android established a presence on every carrier immediately, Apple has kept iPhone on a metered pace of carrier expansion.
Apple’s exclusivity to AT&T was a major factor in Android’s rise to power. Every other carrier was looking for their own iPhone and Android was their ticket to that. Android will still be critical to keep them from becoming overly reliant on iPhone, but now instead of needing their own iPhone, Verizon and Sprint will have the actual iPhone.
Sure, Verizon got the iPhone 4 earlier this year, but that was with a months-old model, not a new one, and it still topped their sales chart. Even a year after its release and months after it debuted on the network, the iPhone 4 still ranked as Verizon’s top selling smartphone. Presumably, the iPhone 5, the first to launch new on the network, will take its place. DROID and other Android phones will continue to be important to Verizon, but they are no longer their top stars.
Of course, the competition is in no danger of being buried by the iPhone entirely, but the grim reality for them is that they’ve already reached as many major U.S. carriers as possible. Neither Android nor BlackBerry have anywhere else to go in this regard. The iPhone does. Even after the iPhone 5 launches, there’s still T-Mobile. It may be tough to swallow, but as fast and as far as it’s gone in the smartphone race, the iPhone has been pacing itself the entire time and now it’s about to kick it up a gear.
Beyond the features, beyond the pricing, beyond the design, this is why the iPhone 5 is so hotly anticipated. Three years ago, when Apple opened the iPhone to developers, Warner and others said it was all over except the crying. I claimed there was more crying to be had as iPhone still had more punches to throw with the last blow being the end of AT&T exclusivity. Well, that time is upon us.
While neither they nor I anticipated Android’s rise, I did predict someone would step up. Turned out to be Google and Android, but it could have been Palm and webOS or Nokia and MeeGo or anyone else. It’s irrelevant. It was going to happen, as was the end of iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity in the U.S. The iPhone 5 launching on multiple U.S. carriers will be Apple’s strongest assault in the smartphone war yet, and if their competitors are shocked by what happens, well, they should have seen it coming. I did. Interesting days await.