Sprint iPhone 4S Sales Soar, But Can Their Network Hold Up?

 The iPhone 4S has easily become Sprint’s best-selling device in the company’s history. But will their 3G network technology be able to support all of the new device activations on the Sprint network?

After defeating the Romans with huge casualties, King Pyrrhus of Epirus famously said, ”Another victory like that and we’re done for.” Known now as a “Pyrrhic victory,” Sprint might be in for a similar fate with the iPhone 4S.

There is no doubt that Sprint’s iPhone 4S have been groundbreaking: they reported that first-day sales of the new iPhone shattered all sales records in the past. High sales reports continued into late last week, with reports indicating that Sprint had sold an astounding 4 million iPhone 4S units to date. Sprint attributes the burst of sales as coming from their unlimited data plan, which suggests that America’s third-largest mobile network is indeed attracting customers from AT&T and Verizon to their value-priced iPhone 4S option, thanks to unlimited data. In a faltering economy, the unlimited data plan is an attractive selling option, positioning Sprint to retain more of its customers and even woo back old customers who left Sprint in search of the iPhone.

But reports also indicate that Sprint’s 3G network is having a difficult time handling the influx of new iPhone 4S customers.

According to Forbes, “Several reviewers found Sprint’s data speeds to be down 300-500-kilobytes per second on both the iPhone 4S and Android models.” ITProPortal supported this report in a related article, saying, ”

In the the last days hundreds of subscribers have complained about slow data speeds, for downloads and uploads. Not only the iPhone customers are affected, but Android users as well and the entire 3G network. The Sprint community forum hosts a growing thread with more than 700 comments on the situation, where people are complaining about unusually low data speeds.”

Late last week, Sprint tried to get out in front of the bad publicity about data speeds by claiming that the iPhone 4S was not crushing their 3G network, erroneously citing a Gizmodo article that the Sprint PR department claimed proved that Sprint is actually the fastest network for the iPhone 4S. PCMag exploded Sprint’s claim, as well as Gizmodo’s study, saying: “The company may be referring to Gizmodo’s Great iPhone Speed Test, which actually doesn’t seem to be backing up Sprint’s claims. For one thing, Gizmodo is currently reporting Sprint’s average iPhone speeds to be half those of Verizon and AT&T. For another, Gizmodo seems to have mixed up 3G and Wi-Fi speeds—many of the site’s results are coming in at higher than the theoretical maximum speeds of the various networks, which means Wi-Fi results were added to the mix.”

Sprint Biding Time for a 4G iPhone 5?

You cannot fault Sprint for trying to damage control bad press that their 3G network cannot hack all of the new iPhone 4S activations. But the fact that Sprint has done little over the past year to bolster their 3G network in anticipation of the iPhone 4S — all while spending most of their resources on building up a 4G network to be launched in mid 2012 — further indicates to me that the iPhone 5 is coming sooner rather than later, and that it will be 4G.

I might just have “4G iPhone 5″ on the brain, but to me, this is another indication that Sprint is betting any future success on the combination of 4G and the iPhone. I seriously doubt that Sprint will bend over backwards to bolster their 3G network, instead focusing on giving their customers the best 4G network that they can muster once the iPhone 5 is released.

By Michael Nace



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