US Cellular (USC) is a member of a dwindling group of carriers yet to offer Apple products to its customers, but that is about to change. Where until now the carrier, available in 26 states and boasting about 5.8 million subscribers, had considered working with Apple to be too costly to justify risk, US Cellular is now singing a very different tune.
The switch in attitudes is probably a result of multiple forces, two of the largest being US Cellular’s continued LTE expansion and the fact that just about every carrier and its dog now offers at least the iPhone to its user-base.
Originally speculation abounded as to what ‘Apple Devices’ would be on offer. The iPhone 5S, 5th generation iPad and 2nd generation iPad mini were all good bets. Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that US Cellular will be offering “iPhone Plans”, quoting US Cellular’s confirmation of buying approx. $1.2 billion worth of iPhone devices over a three year period to begin in later 2013. No other launch plans were reportedly revealed to WSJ.
This doesn’t necessarily rule out iPad and iPad minis from US Cellular; there could still be a deal in the works that the carrier is unable or unwilling to comment on at this stage. What it does seem to confirm, or at least strongly infer, is that the iPhone 5S will be makings its way to US Cellular when it comes out ‘later this year’.
This is actually great timing for US Cellular. Of its 5.8 million users, US Cellular is haemorrhaging tens of thousands of post-paid subscribers every month. Despite this, the company’s user-base is adopting smartphones with increasing enthusiasm, going from a reported 34.4% of active users to 43.5% adopting the more modern smart-tech in the last 12 months.
Not only its consumer base seeing a rise in smartphone adoption, but US Cellular is also now in a good position to offer 4G LTE to a large percentage of its users, hoping to cover up to 87% by the end of 2013. Of course, the iPhone 5 is LTE capable and probably would have been a better time to embrace Apple products for USC, but things are still fairly early in the LTE game.
This way at least, US Cellular will have most of its pre-existing subscribers covered by LTE by around the time that the iPhone 5S hits the shelves, making sure that any USC iPhone 5S users get the most possible bang for their buck.