Sprint confirms unlimited data plans for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said it will offer Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 with its unlimited smartphone data plans, revealing its expected trump card as it prepares to compete head-on with its larger rivals AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ).

The carrier confirmed that its current smartphone pricing plans, which include unlimited data, will not change for the iPhone. Both AT&T and Verizon currently offer usage-based data plans to new smartphone customers. Sprint's plans, which offer unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, data and messaging will range from $79.99 for a plan with 450 anytime voice minutes up to $109.99 for Sprint's Simply Everything plan, which has unlimited voice minutes.

Verizon introduced the iPhone 4 in February when it was still offering unlimited data plans for smartphones (it switched to offering usage-based plans for new smartphone customers in July). Verizon has activated 4.5 million iPhones since then. AT&T, meanwhile, activated 7.2 million iPhones in the first two quarters of this year (during that time AT&T has been selling both the iPhone 4 and a $49 iPhone 3GS with a two-year contract).

Sprint, like Verizon and AT&T, will begin taking pre-orders for the iPhone 4S Oct. 7 at midnight Pacific Time. Sales will begin Oct. 14, with the iPhone 4S retailing for $199.99 for the 16GB model, $299.99 for the 32GB model and $399.99 for the 64GB model, with a two-year contract. Sprint, like AT&T and Verizon, is also selling an 8 GB iPhone 4 for $99.99 with a two-year contract.

The iPhone 4S will support both GSM and CDMA networks. However, according to Apple, only iPhones activated for Verizon and Sprint will have the CDMA capabilities turned on. Additionally, CDMA iPhone 4S users will not be able to have simultaneous voice and data access, but will be able to roam on GSM networks. GSM users likely will enjoy faster data speeds due to the phone's HSDPA support of speeds up to 14.4 Mbps--faster than CDMA EV-DO data. AT&T is also the only carrier that will offer a free iPhone 3GS with a two-year contract.

The carriers are already positioning themselves for how they intend to market their iPhone offerings. AT&T is billing itself as the most complete iPhone carrier, as well as the one with the fastest iPhones. Verizon is relying on its reputation of network reliability to differentiate itself. And Sprint appears to be banking on its value proposition to customers. "Sprint's unlimited data plans provide more value than metered plans from other carriers," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. "Our customers can take advantage of the innovative features of iPhone without worrying about overage charges or surprises on their bill."

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