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While the iPhone dominated smartphone activations in the first quarter at AT&T and Verizon, the numbers look more bleak at third-place Sprint -- until you look closer and realize Apple’s handset is actually a tourniquet for the carrier’s bleeding.
Sprint Nextel reported their first quarter 2012 financial results on Wednesday morning, a day after Apple touted another record quarter with more than 35 million iPhones sold. We already know that AT&T activated 4.3 million of those, with Verizon Wireless lighting up another 3.2 million, so how did third-place Sprint fare?
Not so good by comparison, with only 1.5 million iPhones activated in the first quarter. However, Sprint reveals that 44 percent of those activations went to new customers, which means the story isn’t quite as bad as it sounds on the surface.
Overall, Sprint lost $863 million in Q1 2012 on revenue of $7.2 billion, a seven percent year-over-year increase, despite the actual net loss being higher than the same period a year ago ($439 million). The carrier blames most of the loss on depreciating the loss from its plans to shutter the Nextel network -- without that, the operating loss would be a more stomach-friendly $255 million.
Sprint’s customer base grew to 56 million subscribers, 1.1 million of which were added in the first quarter alone. The carrier’s postpaid business grew 6.9 percent, which Sprint boast is the “largest year-over-year increase on record for the U.S. wireless industry.”
Curiously, Sprint didn’t detail the total number of smartphones activations during the quarter, but the company remained optimistic despite the largely grim news. Things should be looking up in the months ahead, as Sprint starts to ditch its WiMAX 4G network in favor of 4G LTE to remain competitive with Verizon and Sprint, and already has one such handset in its coffers waiting for the service to launch in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio sometime this summer.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter