Reports are circulating that there is a significant chance--80 percent according to one source--that T-Mobile will soon offer the Apple iPhone. Assuming that information is accurate, a T-Mobile iPhone would be a game changer for the wireless industry, and a boon for companies and business professionals that want the iPhone.
Rumors of the demise of the AT&T's exclusive distribution of the Apple iPhone are nothing new. However, years of speculation have focused around predictions that Verizon--AT&T's primary competitor will be next in line to offer the popular smartphone.
However, the iPhone is a GSM device, and Verizon uses CDMA. Offering the iPhone on Verizon would require re-engineering the smartphone to work with Verizon's CDMA towers, but expanding distribution to T-Mobile--which has a GSM network like AT&T--would be a comparatively easy undertaking.
The end of iPhone exclusivity will shake the wireless industry regardless of which wireless carrier--or carriers--ultimately offer it. On the one hand, being able to separate the iPhone from the AT&T network will determine once and for all if the various issues iPhone customers experience are a function of the iPhone itself, or a result of a deficient AT&T network, or both.
Wider availability of the iPhone could result in a spike in demand for the smartphone, possibly propelling it beyond RIM to top the smartphone market share charts. If the iPhone becomes available from Sprint or Verizon, business professionals will have a choice between iPhone-like devices such as the EVO 4G and the Droid X, and the real deal itself.
The Samsung Captivate finally offers a reasonable Android smartphone at AT&T, but it's still no Droid X, and AT&T intentionally handicaps the device with proprietary restrictions. An end to iPhone exclusivity means that we might finally be able to see how iPhone and Android fare when allowed to go head to head.
Aside from all of the reasons that broader iPhone availability will shake up the industry in general, though, a T-Mobile iPhone has unique benefits that should be a concern to AT&T--and maybe Verizon, and would provide significant benefits to users. T-Mobile is at the bottom of the wireless carrier ladder, but that means it tries harder.
T-Mobile has more cost-effective pricing plans--including unlimited data which AT&T recently pulled the plug on. Customers will once again have an option to get an iPhone with an unlimited data plan. In fact, T-Mobile currently offers an unlimited everything plan--talk, text, and Web--for only $80 a month. Similar service from AT&T will cost $115 a month and would only include 2Gb per month of data.
If T-Mobile starts offering the iPhone, and continues to provide pricing that is 30 percent cheaper and provides unlimited data at the same time, T-Mobile will quickly become the iPhone carrier of choice. AT&T, and Verizon if it also eventually gets the iPhone, will have to compete more aggressively with their pricing models to win and retain customers.
AT&T might have to examine its pricing, data plans, policies and ETF, and work harder to improve its network and customer service if it is no longer the only game in town.