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The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
Apple(AAPL - Get Report) iPhone fans know no bounds.
Sprint(S)and T-Mobile might not formally carry the iPhone or subsidize sales of the smartphone, but that doesn't stop Apple junkies from finding a way around limitations.
Case in point: A blog post from T-Mobile this week claims that 1 million T-Mobile iPhones are already on the company's network. This T-Mobile iPhone craze seems to be a result of devices that users "jailbreak" -- techno-speak for removing the restrictions imposed by Apple on devices at their manufacturing, such as limitation to a particular network -- as well as newly offered phones from Apple that come without a contract and are delivered "unlocked" to customers.
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That 1 million T-Mobile iPhone figure is a simply stunning number. The 16-gigabyte iPhone 4 is $199 on
AT&T(T - Get Report) and
Verizon(VZ - Get Report), while the 32-gig Apple iPhone is $299. However, without the subsidy of the carriers, you're looking at $649 and $749 for these respective iPhones from the Apple store.
Yes, you might hate AT&T's network. But do you hate it so much you'll dish out an extra $450?
Granted, some folks might simply be taking an old iPhone 3G to T-Mobile now that their contract is up. Others might be finagling deals on
eBay(EBAY), where you can get a "new" iPhone 3GS for about $300 or a used model for around $150.
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But if T-Mobile's blog is true, it's impressive that so many people are either suffering through with older technology or getting gouged out-of-pocket to simply avoid AT&T and Verizon.
There's a lot of fuss being made about the potential of a Sprint iPhone -- which allegedly will be unveiled in just a few weeks. Some estimate as many as 6 million more devices will be sold as a result, and analysts are raising expectations for Apple as a result. After all, the iPhone accounts for half of AAPL revenue -- so a modest bump in iPhone sales is great for the stock.
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But you have to wonder just how much demand there is out there on these networks if hardcore iPhone fans already have found a way onto Sprint or T-Mobile. Yes, casual users might have been denied entry -- but casual users probably aren't the type who will spend hours in line to get the new iPhone 5 this winter.