Part Three: Smartphones vs. Feature Phones – Sprint

This is Part 3 of this [ZAGG Report]. You can view the other parts here:

Part 1: Verizon (link)
Part 2: T-Mobile (link)
Part 3: Sprint
Part 4: AT&T (link)
Report Summary: (link)

Sprint, the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, is up next. Here’s what I found.

Carrier Retail Stores

After T-Mobile, I went to visit the flagship, corporate-owned retail store for Sprint here in Wichita with a simple question: of all the phones on display, how many are smartphones and how many are feature phones. Here’s what I found.

At the Sprint store, I counted 28 total phones on display. 23 of them were smartphones and 5 were feature phones, giving them a split of 82% smartphone to 18% feature phone. As with T-Mobile, most of Sprint’s feature phones on display were non-working, dummy models.

Carrier Websites

Retail is certainly the most popular place consumers buy their devices. But to get the best picture of the smartphone vs. feature phone balance, the next thing I did was check the carriers’ websites. I was only looking for what they were promoting on their home page; the first page you see. Here’s what I found.

Sprint also has rotating slides on their homepage. All in all, they have 6 phones on their homepage. 5 of them are smartphones. (83% smartphone, 17% feature phone)

Carrier Financial Earnings Reports –

The last thing I did was go direct to the carriers’ latest quarterly earnings report. They’re all public and easy to find the transcripts for, but this is what took the most digging. I was looking for the percentage of smartphones they claim as part of their entire customer base. Ready? Here we go with Sprint.

The latest data for Sprint is dated 6/30/12. They show 56.4 million total subscribers. That includes their Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands, as well as other smaller MVNO and non-branded accounts. Unlike T-Mobile, they didn’t offer a separate accounting of their smartphone penetration compared to branded customers on contract / postpaid plans, even though that’s what their statistic is for. Of branded customers on contract / postpaid plans, Sprint is the highest of all national carriers, with 72% using smartphones.

Summary

Sprint is generally regarded as having the slowest data network speeds of all carriers, both national and regional. Behind Verizon, they have the second-largest 3G footprint, but the smallest 4G footprint of all national carriers. They’ve ditched WiMAX and adopted 4G LTE, and have so far launched 8 markets in the U.S. They plan to roll out up to 100 more markets in “the coming months”. Their push for smartphones is that they’re the only carrier offering “truly unlimited data”.

The only catch with that: I’ve seen more than a few letters from Sprint to customers who use “excessive amounts of data” offering to let them out of their contract with no termination fee if they’ll just leave.

You can view the fourth and final part of this [ZAGG Report] by clicking here.

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