Sprint Apple iPhone 5 Rumor: Five Questions

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The latest iPhone rumor is a big one: Sprint will reportedly be getting Apple's iPhone 5 along with AT&T and Verizon wireless when the phone launches in mid-October, according to the Wall Street Journal's unnamed sources.

If true, it'd be a big boost for Sprint, which has struggled to compete with its larger rivals. But the rumor of a Sprint iPhone 5 leaves several questions unanswered. Here's what I'm still wondering:

Will There Be 4G?

We've heard rumors that Apple is testing 4G LTE in its stores and in iPhones, but it's unlikely that Apple thinks the technology is ready for this generation of hardware. Sprint's WiMax 4G, however, has been available in smartphones since 2010, so there's been a lot of time to work out the kinks. The Wall Street Journal's report says nothing about the Sprint iPhone 5's data speeds, and I doubt that other carriers would be pleased if Sprint had a speed advantage, but you never know.

What About T-Mobile?

The WSJ's report doesn't say whether T-Mobile is also in the running for the iPhone 5. That doesn't mean it's not happening, but it doesn't bode well for the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier. Then again, T-Mobile customers may eventually get an iPhone if the government approves AT&T's proposed acquisition.

What About the iPhone 4?

For the past two hardware cycles, Apple has sold an 8 GB version of its last-generation iPhone as a lower-cost alternative to the new model. This year, the iPhone 4 is rumored to get the same treatment. But when the iPhone 4 came to Verizon in February, the iPhone 3GS wasn't part of the deal. By the same logic, Sprint won't get the iPhone 4 this time around. We'll see.

Will Adding Another Carrier Further Complicate Software Updates?

Apple has a great track record for keeping its phones up to date, but the Verizon iPhone did introduce complications. With iOS 4.3, for instance, the update for Verizon's iPhone came later than AT&T's iPhone update. AppleInsider points out that the Verizon iPhone uses a different baseband chip than the AT&T iPhone, possibly requiring a separate update from Qualcomm. A Sprint iPhone could have similar issues, but if rumors of a dual-mode iPhone 5 are correct, Apple may already have a solution in place, because all phones would have the same baseband supplier.

Has Apple Pinned Down an iPhone 5 Release Date Yet?

Pegging the iPhone 5 release date has been a huge challenge for the rumor mill. When a June launch didn't happen, we started hearing September. Then August. Then early October. The Wall Street Journal says mid-October. With so much conflicting information, my guess is that Apple still doesn't know exactly when the iPhone 5 will be ready. At least no one's predicting a November launch--yet.

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