When someone asks which carriers have the iPhone, what names pop into your head? First on the list of course, is AT&T, followed by Verizon, then Sprint. After all, AT&T was the first carrier to get the iPhone, and the only one to have it until Verizon got the iPhone 4 in 2010. When Sprint cut their own deal with Apple last year, they became the third of the four largest U.S. carriers to offer Apple's flagship phone. T-Mobile, of course, still doesn't have the iPhone.
But what about other carriers? After all, not everybody who wants an iPhone wants to go through the Big Three. Well, it turns out that Apple is beginning to spread the iPhone widely among smaller, local carriers. Last month we brought you news that the iPhone would be coming to five local carriers - Alaska Communications, Cellom, MTA Solutions, GCI, and Appalachian Wireless.
Now, the list of local carriers who offer the iPhone has grown by another three carriers. Kentucky-based Bluegrass Cellular, California-based Golden State Wireless, and Kansas-based NexTech Wireless all announced yesterday that they would be offering the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 as of Friday, May 18th. In almost identical press releases, the three companies unveiled their pricing and plans for the iPhone yesterday afternoon.
As with the five carriers mentioned above, Bluegrass, Golden State, and NexTech will all be offering the iPhone for $50 less than AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint. The 16GB iPhone 4S will sell for $149, the 32GB for $249, and the 64GB for $349. All three will also offer the iPhone 4 (8GB) for either $49 (Bluegrass and NexTech) or $50 (Golden State). The carriers' plans vary somewhat, though they all give their larger-scale competition a run for its money. For example, all of Bluegrass Cellular's and Golden State's plans come with unlimited texting, while half of NexTech's come with unlimited texting and all come with unlimited data.
For those of us who have been paying attention to the iPhone since it debuted in 2007, the idea of Apple giving it to small, local carriers almost seems odd at first glance. After all, we got so used to thinking of the iPhone as a relatively exclusive gadget. The fact is, though, that this is a pretty big - and obvious - move for Apple. The iPhone accounted for two-thirds of the smartphones sold by the big three carriers last quarter.. With sales numbers like that, the iPhone appears to be well on its way to reclaiming its place as the holder of the largest share of the smartphone market, a title lost to Android in recent years.
Of course, small carriers like Bluegrass Cellular or Alaska Communications aren't going to do a lot to boost the iPhone's sales figures on their own. On the other hand, if the iPhone comes to enough of these carriers, and if they all sell iPhones at the same rate as the big carriers, then it could wind up being pretty significant indeed.
Does your local carrier offer the iPhone yet? If they do, does the promise of a lower price, unlimited texting, and unlimited data make you inclined to choose them over one of the larger carriers like Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon? Tell us what you think in the comments.