Sprint iPhone still in the works, possibly available this summer?

Sprint iPhone4There is no shortage of Apple news this week, but the hype of iOS 5, iCloud, and Mac OS X Lion have overshadowed some important iPhone reports. A handful of insiders are saying that the iPhone may be making its way to Sprint this summer, possibly within a couple of months. According to 9to5Mac, Sprint customers may soon be able to get their hands on the CDMA version of the iPhone. These rumors are further supported by the fact that Apple has ordered Sprint-compatible CDMA cellular towers installed on site – a move that also preempted the Verizon iPhone.

Last month, Apple began looking for cellular engineers in the Kansas City area, where Sprint is based. And now it’s believed that an iPhone is making its way through Sprint’s research and development department, and that it possibly could include dual-band support for T-Mobile as well – a move we don’t quite understand yet. Everything points to a matter of when rather than if, fortunately for Sprint (and T-Mobile?) customers who have been left out in the iOS-less cold. But one thing is most certainly still up in the qair: What iPhone will Sprint launch? No one is even quite certain what handset Apple will follow up the iPhone 4 with. Rumors about the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 have become so muddled and inconsistent that it’s nearly impossible to see what Apple is planning here. Last we heard, the alleged iPhone 4S was due in July or August of this summer.

According to the latest rumors on a Sprint iPhone, an iPhone 4 unit is being used for testing purposes and likely to be the carrier’s first iOS release. Even so, a 4G version is allegedly in the works (which would be a first for Apple) to possibly launch in 2012. If all this speculation turns out to be dead on and Sprint releases a 3G iPhone 4 this summer, around the same time the fifth-generation iPhone debuts, that would be some serious Verizon iPhone déjà vu. When it was announced in January that Verizon would finally be getting the iPhone 4, there was some concern from customers who thought the iPhone “5” would be arriving this summer and they wouldn’t be able to upgrade were they to buy the newly available Verizon-iOS handset. Of course, that was way before Apple seriously pushed back its next-gen launch. (How were we to know? Apple is usually the epitome of consistency.) But the concern could be the same this time around: If Sprint introduces an iPhone 4 shortly before or after the iPhone 4S or 5 (call it whatever you want at this point) launches, there could be some customer hesitation – possibly compounded by the fact that users have been rabidly waiting for the next-gen model.

To further complicate iPhone matters, PhoneDog muses that Sprint customers would likely pay more than AT&T or Verizon subscribers for the devices. Sprint has something called a Premium Data add-on, an extra $10 fee “for phones made to deliver a superior wireless experience including Web, email, video, and social networking.” But that’s not all: There is also a rumor making the rounds that the four big networks would trade-off iPhone releases. Apparently, AT&T and Verizon would get the handset upgrade one year, and Sprint and T-Mobile would get it the next, and so on. What the logistics behind this kind of scheduling would be, we’re not sure, but we can say this for sure: Apple fanboys who upgrade models as they are release would not be pleased by such an arrangement.