Apple conspicuously left the fourth largest U.S. carrier off its list of iPhone 5 recipients, leaving many consumers wondering why T-Mobile didn't get Cupertino's latest smartphone.
In fact, it's been nearly six months since the iPhone's latest release and the T-Mobile iPhone 5 has yet to appear. But, T-Mobile execs have mentioned that an iPhone 5 will show up soon...ish.
Network watchdogs see 4G LTE testing in major markets
You've got to hand it to T-Mobile - it's certainly seems to be pushing its efforts into overdrive to prepare for the iPhone and other high-end, 4G LTE-capable phones.
Network monitoring group OpenSignal recently detected nine different cities where T-Mobile looks like it's testing its LTE network. Those include Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans and the San Jose/Bay Area, in addition to Las Vegas and Kansas City, where T-Mobile has publicly announced testing was taking place.
OpenSignal reported picking up the Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, so no iPhone, but perhaps testing for the iOS phone is already complete?
We've said it before and we'll say it again - T-Mobile's plans for the iPhone 5 are intimately tied to its rebranding as the ultimate "UnCarrier." It wants to offer high-end devices at unsubsidized prices, giving customers not just freedom of choice but freedom from contracts and hidden fees as well.
An internal memo leaked in mid-March points to some potential pricing structures for T-Mo's new plans. Starting at $60/month for 500MB of high-speed data, customers can add on at 2GB increments all the way up to an extra 12GB.
Customers who pick up the iPhone 5 will have their pick of plans, which while not earth shatteringly cheap are at least up front in what you get for how much.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? An NYC event scheduled for Tuesday, March 26? What could T-Mobile have up its sleeves?
While we don't fully expect T-Mobile to reveal specific plans for the iPhone 5 (though we wouldn't put it past the No. 4 carrier to take advantage of the public stage) we are anticipating news on the company's "UnCarrier" ambitions.
This means introducing new pricing structures and news related to its 4G LTE roll out, both of which play into T-Mobile's long term plans to bring Apple's latest iOS device to the fore.
Stay tuned as TechRadar brings you coverage of the March 26 event, where we just might see the iPhone 5 turn magenta.
4G LTE and the iPhone 5 go together like Nutella and toast, so the fact that T-Mobile announced it's prepared to switch on its LTE support before the end of March is a clear sign the iPhone can't be too far off.
Part of its preparedness is switching on LTE support housed deep within the Galaxy Note 2, something the carrier starting doing March 18.
The Note 2 is just the first in a series of cell phones T-Mobile plans to enliven with LTE, one of which is the unannounced yet oh-so-happening iPhone 5.
T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere confirmed at a Deutsche Telekom presentation that T-Mobile will get the iPhone 5 but gave a noncommittal "2013" as the date.
However, Legere added that when the iPhone 5 does make its grand appearance, it will be offered in a dramatically different way than other carriers and placed on the network's Value Plan.
T-Mobile's Value Plan lets users choose any phone they want and they can pay in monthly installments, instead of signing the dotted line on a two-year contract.
A T-Mobile rep went into more detail in a previous TechRadar report:
"With the Value Plan, you have the option to bring your own device or get a device from T-Mobile with a low down payment and the remainder of the purchase price to be financed over a 20-month period with the Equipment Installment Plan (EIP)," Katie McFadzean told TechRadar.
Customers can pay full price for a phone upfront or bring in their own unlocked devices, but the point is to save customers money in monthly phone bills, termination fees, etc. where carriers rack up more dough than a handset is actually worth.
iPhone 5 price
A 16GB iPhone 5 costs $649 (more for more gigs), so T-Mobile will have to eventually recoup that amount at some point in consumers' relationship with the carrier. You could, of course, pay 650 big ones up front, but who wants to do that?
Though we don't have confirmation yet, reports suggest that T-Mobile might finance the iPhone 5 for as little as $99 up front while charging $15-$20 in payments over 20 months.
Those financing figures come from GigaOm, and could change, but it gives an idea of the new type of charging structure T-Mobile plans to implement for a high-end handset.
iPhone 5 in a few months, not many
Though we're still lacking a firm release date, Legere divulged to Reuters that the time frame for the smartphone's release, and the company's subsidy elimination plan, will be on the shorter end of the stick.
"They're all, I would call them, in three to four months as opposed to six nine months," he told the publication.
Legere made that comment in early January, during the heat of CES 2013, so that places the timing of the iPhone 5's release right around April or May.
Additionally, a report from the end of February suggests T-Mobile told employees there will be a vacation blackout from the last two weeks of March through the first two weeks of April. Specifically, Auto-o-Mobile pegs the blackout dates as March 18 through April 14.
Such periods usually signal a major phone release, so T-Mobile may send signals it plans to launch the iPhone 5 during this time.
With all the info, we're guessing that early to mid-April is the time T-Mo plans to release the lastest iPhone.
T-Mobile's sour grapes
When Apple released it's sixth-generation phone, it seemed T-Mobile didn't take it well. In fact, T-Mobile had their in-store employees "sell against the iPhone" when it was released last October. So it's a little odd that they would vie for Cupertino's attention now.
However, T-Mobile's sour grapes over not getting the iPhone 5 may be their own fault.
The wireless carrier is not compatible with iOS handset because of its use of AWS frequencies for 3G coverage.
What's more, the iPhone 5 runs on LTE, which T-Mobile didn't carry until this year.
T-Mobile's 4G LTE push for iPhone 5
Speaking of 4G LTE, it's a bandwidth currently not offered by T-Mo, so how does the carrier plan to support Apple's latest iPhone?
By making a massive push to provide 4G LTE to customers, that's how.
"In 2013, we're going to get LTE rolled out to our customers even sooner than originally planned," a T-Mobile spokesperson told us in late January.
"We're on track to have 100 million Americans covered with LTE by mid-year. By the end of 2013, we'll cover more than 200 million people with LTE."
That flurry of 4G LTE won't be for nothing: not only will it boost T-Mobile's current and future phone offerings for every manufacturer, it is prime spectrum space for the iPhone 5.