It’s widely believed that Apple will both announce and launch a new iPhone, presumably called the iPhone 5, sometime during the fall of 2012. And while the device is almost certain to land on three major U.S. carriers, there are also some smaller carriers that should see the device as well.
Last year, the iPhone 4S launched on four American carriers. The big three were AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. The device also launched soon after on regional carrier C-Spire.
Over the course of the months since its October release, the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 have both shown up on several smaller carriers including Virgin Mobile, Nex-Tech Wireless, Golden State Cellular and Bluegrass Cellular. The iPhone 4S is also available on Cricket and it will be headed to Boost Mobile, along with the iPhone 4 later this year.
Apple, as we have said many times, is a creature of habit. It’s also a company that likes to profit. Thus, we expect Apple to follow a similar release pattern with the iPhone 5, getting it onto as many carriers as it possibly can in the United States before it announces the next iPhone.
Here is what to expect from the iPhone 5 release date in terms of specific carriers.
Big Three (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon)
While none of them have confirmed any sort of release date for the iPhone 5, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon should all be expected to get the device at launch.
All three carried the iPhone 4S and all three have 4G LTE networks in place should Apple choose to release a 4G LTE enabled iPhone 5 as is rumored.
Right now, the iPhone 5 release date is rumored to be arriving in the months of August, September or October with October being the likely launch month.
Apple follows yearly release cycles, when it can, and it released the iPhone 4S in October of last year. We expect all three of these carriers to have the iPhone 5 at launch.
C-Spire, believe it or not, got the iPhone 4S not long after the device launched on the big three American carriers. We expect the carrier to follow a similar path this year.
The reasons is, the carrier announced that it will be rolling out its $60 million 4G LTE network in various locations in the state of Mississippi come September.
The specifics of the roll out look like this:
- Jackson metropolitan area
- Mississippi Gulf Coast
- In South Mississippi: the cities of Brookhaven, Columbia, Natchez, Petal, Hattiesburg, McComb and Lucedale;
- In North Mississippi: the cities of Oxford, Tupelo, Corinth, New Albany, Pontotoc, Booneville, Starkville, Columbus and West Point;
- In the Mississippi Delta, the cities of Yazoo City, Cleveland, Greenville, Greenwood and Clarksdale
- In East Mississippi: the city of Meridian and parts of Lauderdale County
The locations aren’t as important as the timing though. Apple is presumed to be launching an iPhone 5, in October, with 4G LTE on board. The timing of C-Spire’s roll out fits in quite nicely with a possible iPhone 5 launch later in the year.
Last year, the carrier got the iPhone 4S in November and it wouldn’t be surprising to see C-Spire get the iPhone 5 in the same month in 2012.
T-Mobile is the fourth largest carrier in the United States but it still doesn’t have the iPhone and it likely won’t see that change with the iPhone 5 launch this fall.
The biggest reasons is that it won’t have a 4G LTE network in place to support the iPhone 5 should it have 4G LTE capabilities.
Instead, the carrier has been rumored to finally be getting the iPhone, at least officially, in 2013 when its 4G LTE network finally goes live.
T-Mobile does, however, allow current iPhone users to use its 2G network and it’s possible that the carrier might try and lure some iPhone 5 owners in using that EDGE network or with an HSPA+ network.
The carrier announced that it is beginning to test more markets for its 4G HSPA+ service within the carrier’s 1900 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile already publicly revealed one test which took place outside Moscone West in San Francisco during WWDC and allowed iPhone users to get faster data speeds when using T-Mobile.
In any event, don’t expect a T-Mobile iPhone 5 until 2013 at the earliest and maybe even not at all.
Cricket, MetroPCS, Virgin Mobile
Apple did something new with the iPhone 4S in that it launched the device on pre-paid carriers in the United States. Cricket and Virgin Mobile offer up the iPhone 4S and Virgin offers up the iPhone 4 as well.
These pre-paid carriers allow consumers to buy the iPhone without the need for a signature on a two year contract.
The iPhone 5 could hit some of these pre-paid carriers next year as Cricket currently has a 4G LTE network in place. Virgin Mobile does not have a full-fledged 4G LTE network which means that they might not see an official 4G LTE launch next year.
If Cricket does get the iPhone 5, we don’t expect it to arrive until sometime in 2013.
As for another pre-paid carrier, MetroPCS currently has a 4G LTE network in place as well. And while the carrier might not offer it officially, the carrier says that it would be interested in an unlocked 4G LTE iPhone 5.
U.S. Cellular is an up and comer in the world of mobile carriers in the United States as it currently has a 4G LTE network in place, a massive expansion lined up for later this year, and a fairly large swath of coverage.
Additional markets that will be arriving later this year include select cities in Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
And while the carrier hasn’t offered up every specific city, it has listed off a few which include Rockford and Peoria, Ill.; Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo.; Manchester, N.H.; Wilmington and Jacksonville, N.C.; Tulsa, Okla.; Medford, Ore.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va.; Yakima and the Tri-Cities, Wash.; Morgantown, W. Va. and LaCrosse and Beloit, Wis.
U.S. Cellular turned down the iPhone 4S but it may opt to carry the iPhone 5, especially if it has 4G LTE.
The carrier launched the Galaxy S III soon after the major carriers and we could see the carrier, if it indeed offers the iPhone 5, launch the device sometime soon after the iPhone 5′s release date.
Lastly, Apple launched the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S on several extremely small regional carriers in the United States.
That list of carriers includes:
- Nex-Tech Wireless
- Bluegrass Cellular
- Golden Gate Cellular
- Alaska Communications
- Appalachian Wireless
- Pioneer Cellular
Clearly, there are no guarantees that Apple will launch an iPhone 5 on any of these carriers, especially if they don’t have 4G LTE in place by next year.
Still, it’s a possibility and if it does happen, we don’t expect the device to arrive until the second quarter of next year, much in the same way the iPhone 4S arrived this year.
iPhone 5 Rumors
As for the iPhone 5 itself, it’s rumored to include a number of new features in addition to 4G LTE data speeds which will allow users to pull down speeds up to 10x faster than 3G.
The device is supposedly going to be arriving with a taller, but thinner design and a new 4-inch screen size. The screen is rumored to be both lighter and thinner than previous displays and could make for great outdoor viewing.
It’s also rumored to have an upgraded front-facing FaceTime camera, a quad-core A6 processor, and a metal backing instead of a glass one.