T-Mobile, Sprint poised to pick up subscribers from Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program

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Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program appears to be leading U.S. phone buyers away from AT&T and Verizon toward carriers with cheaper fees such as T-Mobile and Sprint, a report said on Monday.

T-Mobile credited the September quarter, its best iPhone quarter ever, partly to people buying their devices through Apple, according to Bloomberg. Sprint meanwhile is only due to reveal its quarterlies on Tuesday, but analysts are expecting the carrier to pick up 321,000 subscribers in a fourth consecutive quarter of user growth, at least some of them being iPhone Upgrade Program members.

Apple only launched the program in September alongside the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and there are no precise figures on how many people have signed up. Analyst forecasts have called for anywhere between 3 and 9 million in the first year.

At a minimum of $32 a month for two years, the program is relatively expensive compared to some carrier-based leasing options, but it does offer a new unlocked iPhone every year including an AppleCare+ warranty. This frees owners to switch carriers at will.

T-Mobile and Sprint have both been aggressive about offering cheaper smartphone plans, potentially making them a natural destination for people not locked into contract. AT&T and Verizon typically have better coverage, although the gap is diminishing.

People wanting to enter the iPhone Upgrade Program must currently do so through an Apple Store. During a recent results call, Apple CEO Tim Cook signalled a desire to eliminate that obstacle.