Sprint May Not Be Viable Option for iPhone 5 Buyers at Launch

Sprint customers may have to wait far past the supposed September 21 iPhone 5 release to buy Apple’s latest phone. Even worse, Sprint may not even be a viable option for iPhone 5 buyers since the company’s been slow to roll out its 4G LTE network.

Sprint is the only carrier to offer the iPhone 4S with unlimited data plans. Though that sounds good in theory, Sprint’s 3G network is much slower than AT&T’s HSPA+ network. In fact, the iPhone 4S downloads data at least twice as fast on AT&T’s network than Sprint’s. You can read more about our spot tests we ran last year when the iPhone 4S launched on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint simultaneously here.  In some cases, Sprint’s 3G network was too slow to use popular apps, such as Netflix and SlingPlayer, which makes the unlimited data offer kind of useless.

iPhone 5 Release date confirmed 21

Rendering of the possible iPhone 5.

The iPhone 4S is likely the last phone to rely solely on 3G technology as the time has finally come for Apple to launch its first 4G LTE iPhone. Verizon was the first to introduce a 4G LTE phone back in February of last year. Verizon has the most mature 4G LTE network, covering more than 370 cities. AT&T followed suit and now offers 4G LTE service in 60 cities. AT&T’s promised 4G LTE coverage in 55 additional cities by the end of 2012.

And where’s Sprint in 4G LTE mix? The carrier offers 4G LTE in just 19 markets, none of which are west of San Antonio. Last time we checked there are plenty of mobile customers west of Texas. Sprint’s 4G LTE network doesn’t cover much east of San Antonio either. New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago and other big city residents are not covered by Sprint 4G LTE. If you happen to live near Sprint’s headquarters in the Midwest you may be covered.

Screen Shot 2012-09-07 at 10.28.02 AM

Sprint 4G LTE Coverage is Sparse

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The worst thing about Sprint’s 4G LTE network for iPhone 5 buyers is that unlike AT&T, Sprint hasn’t announced future plans to expand its 4G LTE footprint. iPhone buyers shouldn’t take the word of Sprint salespeople who say that 4G LTE is coming to their neighborhoods soon. The simple fact is that at this point nobody knows if or when Sprint will launch 4G LTE in any particular market except for Sprint employees much higher up the food chain than retail reps.

Another thing to consider is that Sprint’s own 4G LTE coverage maps are somewhat misleading. When switching to view 4G LTE coverage only, orange signifies 4G LTE coverage. Sprint just happened to color every Interstate highway orange on the map, which makes it appear that every highway in the United States is covered by the fast network. This could prove disastrous if Sprint customers buy the new iPhone assuming they’ll be covered by Sprint 4G LTE on their daily commutes. It aslo paints a false light that Sprint 4G LTE is already in their neighborhoods and just needs to expand a bit beyond the highways before they’re able to enjoy unlimited 4G LTE at work and home.

Sprint’s 4G LTE network shouldn’t be confused with its 4G WiMax network, which was the first 4G network in the United States. Sprint’s stopped selling WiMax compatible phones and the new iPhone 5 is not compatible with the older network.

According to leaked Sprint documents, the carrier appears to be scheduled to begin selling the iPhone 5 on October 15. Of course, this could be wrong, but if this is accurate, it could give Verizon and AT&T a big head start. Early adopters surely won’t want to wait almost a month past the expected September 21 iPhone 5 launch date.

The iPhone 5 launch won’t be the first time Sprint’s treated as a second-class wireless carrier. Its immature 4G LTE network is likely why it was left out of the New iPad launch earlier this summer. The New iPad (also known as the iPad 3) launched in March on AT&T’s and Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

Unless Sprint ups its 4G LTE game at a rapid pace we can’t recommend buying an iPhone 5 on the Now Network if you live outside of any of its 19 4G LTE markets. We’re hoping Sprint is slow-playing its 4G LTE plans and will unleash dozens of 4G LTE markets in time for the iPhone 5 release.

 

Comments

  1. alicant310 says

    Incorrect. At&t only services 53 markets with LTE service to date. It ANTICIPATES adding 40 markets by the end of the year, but that is not official.

  2. Nahum G says

    Sprint HAS made plans to expand its LTE footprint as part of its Network Vision plan. You can see the markets it is planning to launch in the near future at s4gru.com

  3. Luke says

    Sprint will also be launching LTE on 800 mhz in 2014. Also with Network Vision will be using CDMA Advanced and that will double the current 3g speed.

  4. langston says

    i remember when i bought the EVO at launch and i was told san Diego will be getting 4g by the end of the month. that was september 2010. two years later still no 4G in San diego. #FAIL

  5. Tim Davies says

    ATT has great coverage of LTE here in Baltimore, and it the last 3 months it has spread further into the County. Their 3g(fauxe 4g) has gotten a lot faster as well. (up to 10 down)

  6. Yerasimos Zaxas says

    I have stream netflix in high quality over the sprint 3g network all over PA. Also I use 7.5- 8 gigs of data a month over the 3g net work alone! try doing that over att or verizon

  7. JayhawkNative says

    “If you happen to live near Sprint’s headquarters in the Midwest you may be covered.” Haha, I’m 3.5 miles from their HQ.. But seriously though, this article is a bit dire. Considering Sprint has pretty much discontinued rolling out WiMax phones and is clearly switching their stock to LTE phones, I thinks it’s a safe bet they’ll be building out their LTE infrastructure more. This article sounds more like it was written by a competitor than a neutral journalist of any sort.

  8. cj bURG says

    IN YOUR FACE MTHR FCKRS. THATS WHAT YOU GET FOR DOWN PLAYING SPRINT. 100 NEW MARKETS. WHO’S SLOW NOW. THATS MORE MARKETS THAN VERIZON EVER LAUNCHED IN A SINGLE BATCH. LOSERS! HAHAHAHAHA WHERE YOU AT ATT WITH 53 MARKETS HAHAHAHA

  9. RJ says

    I hate Sprint! My EVO never moves quick. To many times phone mists shuts off and does not power up 4 …10 minutes. Live at the Jersey Shore, coverage horrible.

  10. Mario G. says

    I’m on Verizon, sounds like the issue is with your phone not the carrier. Since when is it the carriers fault if the phone does not turn on.

  11. Jefe says

    Don’t blame Sprint for your EVO freezing, blame HTC. They manufactured the phone. The new EVO 4G LTE is much, much better though as far as performance goes, I just upgraded after using the old EVO for a couple years. Just sucks I can’t get any data on it until they launch in Chicago. Also, if your EVO is running like shit it helps a lot to clear out any apps you don’t need. At least that was the case for me.. it doesn’t have enough internal memory if you keep installing things.

  12. fukyoudude says

    My sprint family contract is up thank god.I hate Sprint they lie about coverage and lie about 4g not to mention their ranked lowest in 3g speeds. I’m switching to Verizon. Sprint is just way to slow.

  13. Scott says

    I live in Miami Florida and am disappointed with sprints 3G, there isn’t LTE and and there coverage is choppy. I was paying around 200 for all the data I was using on AT&T network and am thinking of switching back just because of the network. Of your in Miami do not buy iPhone until LTE is here if not you will be sorry.
    Unhappy New sprint customer.
    http://techjunkie.tv

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