Sprint quickly increases iPhone 8 promo in shot across the bow of rivals

Sprint store (with new logo, use this)
Sprint is offering a free 18-month lease on the iPhone 8

The détente among U.S. carriers regarding Apple’s new phones may be coming to an end already.

Sprint sweetened its promotion for the iPhone 8 just three days after it began accepting preorders as the battle among carriers to leverage Apple’s new phones escalated a notch. The nations smallest major carrier is offering a free 18-month lease of an iPhone 8 64 GB to users who activate a new line of service and trade in an iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8.

After the lease expires customers can return the phone and upgrade to a new handset or can pay $29.17 a month over six more months to own the device.

Sprint’s initial iPhone 8 promotion, which it announced less than a week ago, offered 50% off lease payments for with the trade-in of an iPhone 7. Sprint customers who have already preordered the iPhone 8 64 GB will automatically receive the deal.

“This could be a sign that Sprint’s preorders of the iPhone 8 did not live up to expectations,” Walter Piecyk of BTIG Research wrote in a blog post. “Other operators might be experiencing the same result with iPhone preorders, but feel less pressure than Sprint to use costly promotions to drive subscriber growth. The timing and degree by which shipping times slipped for the iPhone 8 over the weekend and compared to last year provide little evidence of demand differing materially from last year and can be a function of a number of factors.”

Apple introduced the new phones last week, and network operators were quick to unveil promotions that analysts generally described as “unremarkable” compared to more aggressive iPhone campaigns in past years.

“The carrier deals that have emerged so far are unremarkable and largely in line with expectations,” said Geoff Blaber, vice president of research for the Americas at CCS Insight and FierceWireless contributor. “That said, T-Mobile’s trade-in deal of $300 is more aggressive and I’d expect others to eventually follow suit.”

 The looming question, of course, is whether Sprint’s rivals will return fire by stepping up their own iPhone promotions. If so, the holiday shopping season could yet again be brutally competitive as carriers go all-out to gain market share—even if those battles take a toll on the bottom line.

“As we detailed in our preview note, we expected Sprint to be the most aggressive with iPhone promotions,” Piecyk wrote. “We were somewhat surprised by their initial offer last week and can only speculate how this might be a reaction to lower-than-expected preorders of the iPhone 8. Sprint’s competitors have not been responsive to its actions in the market in recent months, but we will continue to monitor any changes.”