Sprint is releasing a custom suite of apps and services for the iPhone 4S, as it seeks ways to brand the device and distinguish itself in the eyes of smartphone customers.
The “Sprint Zone” for iPhone is expected to be available for download by the end of this year, said Sprint vice president Kevin McGinnis aid at the company’s developer conference in Santa Clara, Calif.
The app will connect users to a custom bundle of apps and services, allowing them to easily check usage, pay bills and get news from Sprint. The company plans to make other services, such as Sprint TV, available to iPhone users shortly thereafter.
The iPhone is difficult to brand because Apple tightly controls how its products are packaged, marketed and shipped. Carriers often imprint a logo on Android and Windows devices and pre-load them with a suite of services labeled with their name. But the iPhone offers fewer branding opportunities, so carriers must find alternate ways to distinguish themselves to the device’s users.
Sprint, the last top U.S. operator to carry the iPhone, is likely looking for innovative ways to make its mark both on the device and in the minds of customers.
Other carriers have established their niches. For example, AT&T, which lost iPhone exclusivity to Verizon earlier this year, touts its fast network speeds and Verizon advertises itself as the highest-quality, most widespread network.
Sprint, the latecomer to the iPhone party, leans on its unlimited plans to attract iPhone customers from other carriers more closely associated with the device. By releasing the Sprint Zone app, Sprint may more strongly link its name and reputation with Apple’s hot-selling device, providing another way to stand out.
“Our customers see us as a trusted advisor,” said McGinnis.
Sprint will have to find ways to convince customers to download its apps, since it can’t preload them on the iPhone as it does on other devices. In this respect, it faces the same challenge as all other iPhone carriers.
Sprint has much riding on its iPhone deal. The company reportedly will pay Apple $20 billion over the next four years for rights to sell the smartphone, and its high-risk strategy has raised concerns among investors.
The shortage of capital is coupled with reports that the iPhone 4S is overburdening Sprint’s network, resulting in slow device speeds. As Sprint releases more data-hungry apps and services to attract iPhone customers, it may have to work doubly hard to ensure its network is ready to handle them.