In all likelihood, Apple will introduce two new versions of the iPhone at a press conference in Cupertino, and it'll be the first time that a new iPhone is available on all four of the major carriers in the US at launch. That's according to a new Bloomberg News report, which claims that T-Mobile will sell the latest version of the iPhone right at launch, alongside entrenched carrier partners AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. It's not a big surprise — AT&T exclusivity ended a long time ago, and Apple is clearly keen to get its phone available on as many carrier partners as possible — but the landscape is quite a bit different than it was last year when the iPhone 5 launched on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T in the US.
For the first time, Apple is expected to introduce two models — one "flagship" device to replace the iPhone 5 as well as a lower-cost (and probably colorful) option to slot in below. That lower-cost option might be particularly beneficial to T-Mobile, as the fourth-place carrier in the US focuses far more on prepaid than any of its bigger competitors. Having a cheaper iPhone to offer its prepaid segment could be a major differentiator for T-Mobile. "Assuming it is a lower-priced iPhone, it should, in theory, benefit T-Mobile more than the others," said Michael Cote from the Cote Collaborative wireless analysis firm. "If you look at the rate of people leaving AT&T for T-Mobile, the ratio is already bad, and this could exacerbate that."
The carrier landscape is also quite a bit different than it was a year ago. When T-Mobile announced that it too would carry the iPhone 5 this past March, it did so alongside radical new wireless plans (for the US market, anyway) that eliminated contracts and de-coupled the cost of your device subsidy from your wireless service contract. It's a move that helped the carrier advertise the iPhone 5 at "$99 down" — $100 less than competing carriers. T-Mobile's new "Uncarrier" strategy helped drive strong increases in customers, and its subsequent "Jump" upgrade plan forced Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint to change their own phone upgrade policies. (Though the value of those offerings is questionable, at best, particularly from AT&T and Verizon.) While it's too early to say that these new iPhone models will help T-Mobile more than its competition, it looks like T-Mobile will at least be on the same footing as its bigger rivals.