T-Mobile is kicking off its official sales of the iPhone 5 today, marking the first time the U.S.’ fourth largest carrier has offered an Apple smartphone. Thanks to T-Mo’s new Uncarrier plans, the iPhone 5 can be had starting at just $99, with two years of $20 monthly payments to cover the balance, or for free if you’re switching from another carrier and bring a device in for trade. So far, so good, according to reports of lines forming at retail stores for a phone that’s now over six months old.
BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk tweeted the photo above of a line at a location this morning, and reports on Twitter suggest that small lines are forming at various locations around the U.S. Our own intern Michael Seo said there was a small one outside the T-Mobile store near our New York offices when he came into work this morning.
The appetite for the T-Mobile iPhone is good news for both Apple and the small carrier. T-Mobile’s existing potential reach only represents around 26.1 million total additional subscribers for Apple (a smaller percentage of which are realistically potential iPhone 5 buyers). That’s not a huge number in global subscriber terms, but it does give Apple room to expand its smartphone dominance in the U.S., and could provide it a late-stage bump for the iPhone 5, which is going to face increasing pressure from new competing flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4.
T-Mobile has consistently been left out of launch day hype surrounding the release of Apple’s iPhone, with the carrier relegated to watching from the sidelines as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon locations saw customers queue for the iPhone 5 back in September, so it’s probably very happy to see lines form with this launch. Combined, the iPhone 5 and the carrier’s new model could lure away quite a few switchers, but we’ll have to wait and see if that impacts the overall distribution of U.S. wireless customers in any significant way.