Dish hopes to score big with iPhone 15

The latest iPhone may be table stakes for the biggest U.S. carriers, but for the newest national U.S. carrier – Dish Network – it’s a very big deal.

For the first time, the iPhone is certified for the Boost wireless network, which is a 5G standalone (SA) network. Transitioning traffic from its MVNO deals to Dish’s own network will drive $1.2 billion of annual savings for Dish, according to analysts at New Street Research (NSR). That, in turn, pushes Dish’s need for outside funding to mid-2026, according to NSR.

“The new iPhone still includes Band 70, as expected. The network has been certified by Apple for the first time. This is a big deal. No exaggeration. Certification by Apple will accelerate Dish’s ability to move traffic onto their own network,” wrote NSR analyst Jonathan Chaplin in a note for investors on Tuesday.

Dish is positioning its iPhone 15 offer like a membership, promising members will get $1,000 off the new iPhone 15 lineup now and the latest iPhone every year at no extra cost with unlimited talk, text and data for $60/month. The fine print notes that customers using more than 30 GB/month may experience slower speeds, and the deal requires a 3-year device financing agreement.

During Dish’s Q1 earnings call in May, company executives said they had made a lot of progress bringing the iPhone to the Boost Infinite postpaid service. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said it would be very difficult to be successful in the postpaid business without the iPhone. “Then I think we get to go a bit more on offense and it’s been a little bit frustrating to play defense as long as we have,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript.

To shore up its finances, Dish is in the midst of merging with EchoStar, which is also chaired by Ergen. The NSR analysts said they don’t think Dish is in a position to invest aggressively in marketing and subsidies right now but they expect a slow and steady shift in mix from prepaid to postpaid. Boost Mobile is Dish’s prepaid brand.

iPhone 15 pre-orders begin Friday

Pre-orders for the new iPhone lineup begin Friday, September 15, with availability beginning Friday, September 22.

The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus come with many of the features that had been expected. Camera upgrades and a USB-C connector are among them. In addition to the SOS satellite service introduced last year, Apple now offers Roadside Assistance, where U.S. users can connect to AAA if they have car trouble while off the grid.

AT&T also noted that the iPhone 15 is a 5G standalone (SA) device. Earlier this week, AT&T Network President Chris Sambar penned a blog about his team’s “significant progress” in enabling 5G SA and how AT&T continues to move “thousands of customers every day” to 5G SA.

Broadly speaking, the lack of iPhone 15 headline-grabbing updates will be disappointing, but that isn’t a surprise given the maturity of the iPhone, according to Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight. “It reflects just how refined the iPhone and Watch devices are and how tough it has become to deliver truly disruptive updates every year,” he said in emailed comments.

The move to a USB-C connector is a success story for European Union regulators over big tech despite efforts by Apple to resist it in 2020, he noted. Ultimately, “it’s a victory for common sense becoming the standard connector for all consumer electronics devices,” he said.

Tables stakes  

For IDC analyst Jason Leigh, nothing was “super shocking” and the entire Apple event marked another annual upgrade cycle with a number of device improvements.

“It’s really just table stakes for the carriers,” Leigh said. “They know they need to offer it. If you look at the promotions that have been announced, they all feel very much the same.”

TD Cowen analysts said AT&T appeared the most aggressive on its device offers highlighted by free iPhones for new and existing customers while not requiring higher-end plans. T-Mobile looked to be the second most aggressive, with a similar offer to AT&T but tied to top tier plans. Verizon is least aggressive of the Big 3, Cowen said in a report for investors.  

Because all the carriers are playing with the same deck of devices, which they all get at the same time, they’re forced to differentiate through promotions or through perks, Leigh said. “They have to offer a promotion,” if only to keep their current subscribers.

The camera upgrades in the new iPhone lineup might be enough to trigger a professional photographer to upgrade, but it’s not clear how many people will buy a new device when the length of time people keep their phones has trended longer, he said. Plus, consumers are likely to look more closely at their discretionary spend in today’s economy and not shell out more for a new device that will be out of date in a year or two.