Sprint’s iPhone Bet Pays Off, 44% of Sales to New Customers

Last year Sprint bet on the iPhone to help bolster its subscriber count, and in the first quarter of 2012 that bet is paying off.

Sprint announced that it sold 1.5 million new iPhones in the first quart of 2012. Of those 1.5 million iPhones, 44 percent were to customers that were new to Sprint. Overall, Sprint added a total of 1.1 million new subscribers, bringing the carrier to a record 56 million subscribers.

Those numbers aren’t close to the numbers that AT&T and Verizon see, but they’re respectable for the third-place U.S. carrier. In comparison, AT&T recently announced that it sold a total of 4.3 million iPhones in the same quarter. Although, AT&T does have the free-on-contract iPhone 3GS which Sprint lacks.

Sprint's iPhone Bet Pays Off, 44% of Sales to New Customers

Despite the iPhone sales, Sprint still suffered in the first quarter of the year. The carrier posted a net loss of $863 million, in the same quarter last year the carrier posted a $439 million net loss.

The net loss this year is mostly because Sprint is finally shutting down the iDEN cell sites it picked up when it acquired Nextel years ago. The carrier also took losses from the Lightsquared fiasco that would have resulted in a 4G LTE network for Sprint. Instead, Lightsquared just ended up getting tied up in Congress over spectrum issues, causing Sprint to break the deal.

Sprint still has a 4G LTE plan in place, and will launch the network in six cities by mid-2012. The 4G LTE network should help Sprint gain even more iPhone subscribers later this year, assuming the iPhone 5 does indeed launch with 4G LTE. In the meantime, Sprint is already selling 4G LTE phones like the Galaxy Nexus and HTC EVO 4G LTE before the network is available anywhere.

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