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Wall Street Journal: iPhone heading to Sprint this fall

by Phil Hornshaw

Sprint has been facing down some big troubles among mobile competition of late. Verizon Wireless dominates in the Android front and acquired Apple’s hugely popular iPhone 4 earlier this year, and AT&T – already armed with the iPhone – is hoping to merge with T-Mobile, constraining the field of mobile providers and leaving Sprint at a disadvantage in a whole lot of ways.

But that could be changing if a new report is to be believed. The Wall Street Journal is saying that the iPhone is headed to Sprint’s network, citing unnamed sources familiar with the supposedly developing deal.

Sprint runs on a CDMA network similar to Verizon’s, so it could already theoretically support the version of the iPhone that sports a CDMA cellular radio already compatible with Verizon’s network. We also heard earlier this week that the next iPhone, believed to be called the iPhone 5 and supposedly launching in October, would be a dual-mode “world phone,” with both CDMA and GSM cellular radios included. If that’s the case, and it seems pretty likely, then the iPhone 5 would probably be ready to hop straight onto Sprint’s network when it is released.

The WSJ says Sprint will start selling the iPhone 5 in mid-October alongside the iPhone 4, as well. That report suggest that an earlier rumor, that the iPhone 5 would be on sale Oct. 7 with preorders starting Sept. 30, may now be invalidated, changed or otherwise untrue.

Also pointed out in the WSJ report is that while Sprint will undoubtedly be thrilled to pick up Apple’s extremely popular device – reports say Apple has ordered 53 million of them from manufacturers in the second half of 2011, with 26 million of those being iPhone 5s – picking up the iPhone might be a bit of a double-edged sword. Sprint has been fighting AT&T on its $39 billion T-Mobile merger, citing that the huge company will be too hard to compete with. Getting the iPhone might give AT&T more evidence to point to when it argues that the cellular companies will be on even enough ground to stay competitive.

The WSJ doesn’t have too many more details than that, although it does mention that the next iPhone will be slimmer than its predecessor and include an improved camera. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help confirm or deny whether the next iPhone will be a fully new product or more of an incremental update.

Either way, though, it would appear as though a lot more cellular customers in the U.S. may soon have access to Apple’s enormously popular device. Analysts have speculated that the next iPhone could double Apple’s share of the smartphone market; adding Sprint would undoubtedly have serious effects on the space.