Sprint CEO tries to get back in the game with Apple’s iPhone 6

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Marcelo Claure, the wireless carrier’s new CEO, plans to introduce a new $50 unlimited data plan for Apple’s two new smartphones.

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Apple introduced two larger screen iPhones during an event on Tuesday.James Martin/CNET

CUPERTINO, Calif. — On his first day as CEO of Sprint, Marcelo Claure didn’t spend his time greeting employees in the company’s Kansas headquarters. Instead, he traveled to Cupertino to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Sprint didn’t start offering the iPhone until the fourth generation of the device — the iPhone 4S in October 2011 — and Claure was determined Sprint would be at the front of the pack this time around. So he asked Cook for a meeting.

“I did not want to miss out,” Claure said in an interview Tuesday, shortly after Apple launched its newest smartphones. “I think [the iPhone 6] will be the most successful iPhone ever launched.”

The two CEOs struck a deal for Sprint to offer the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at Sprint with new, specially priced, unlimited data plans. For $50, buyers of the iPhone 6 models will get unlimited data, voice, and text. By comparison, Sprint’s cheapest plan for individuals currently costs $60.

Apple on Tuesday unveiled its newest iPhones — the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus — during a splashy event at the Flint Performing Arts Center down the street from its Cupertino headquarters. Cook also showed off Apple’s first wearable, called the Apple Watch, as well as a mobile payments service, called Apple Pay.

Cook, speaking before an audience of more than 2,000 people, touted the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as the “biggest advancement in the history of the iPhone.”

“They’re better in every single way,” he said.

Sprint, meanwhile, is going through many changes with Claure at the helm. Claure, the 43-year-old founder and CEO of wireless supplier Brightstar, in August took the reins from Dan Hesse, who served as CEO since December 2007. Already, Sprint has restructured and cut the prices for its service plans. Sprint has steadily been losing customers every quarter, and Claure’s task is to change that.

About a week after Claure became CEO, Sprint announced its first-ever family share plan, called the Family Share Pack, which will double the amount of data subscribers get for the same price as its competitors. To attract new customers to the network, the company also introduced two new promotions that provide even more data for the same price as the competing options. And it stole a move from T-Mobile’s playbook with an offer to reimburse customers for early termination fees if they switch to Sprint.

Three days after the family plan introduction, Sprint announced its new $60 unlimited data plans for individual customers.

“We’re going to offer the best value in wireless,” Claure told CNET on Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual, a couple, or a family.”

Along with the new $50 data plan for the iPhone 6 models, Sprint also plans to guarantee guarantee it will double the data offered by competitors. Right now, Sprint’s family plan, which allows up to 10 devices on the same plan, costs $100 and includes 20GB of data.

Sprint also will give customers a $200 trade-in value for any iPhone, even the iPhone 3G — Apple’s first smartphone, which it introduced in 2007.

The company also will offer a new plan called iPhone For Life. Customers essentially rent an iPhone 6 instead of buying it, paying $20 a month for the device. They’ll be eligible to upgrade to a new phone in two years and will also pay for the $50 a month data/text/talk plan.

“People are afraid to use their phone to the max potential,” Claure said. “We allow people to use their phone as much as they want. The way of doing that is large, large buckets of data for them to share.”

In terms of the special iPhone 6-only plans, Claure said it’s because Apple’s new phone supports Sprint Spark, the company’s 2.5Ghz, LTE network band.

“The spectrum we have in 2.5 is huge,” he said. “That gives up capacity. If you’ve tested 2.5 spectrum, the experience is phenomenal.”

Sprint’s changes are showing early signs they’re working. Claure declined to share subscriber data but said traffic is up in Sprint stores, and it’s getting more applications.

He also noted that since Japanese carrier SoftBank bought Sprint in July 2013, Sprint has never had a day in which it had more customers coming to the carrier than leaving, an industry term called “port positive.” But in the past few weeks, Sprint has had “a few” days where it had more customers seeking out Sprint than bailing on the carrier.

“It’s huge [for us],” he said. “We’re not going to make a big deal because it’s [only] a few days, and competitors will react, but it’s amazing when you have a motivated salesforce interested in the product. Imagine showing up to work if you’re not going to win. People are motivated, they’re engaged.”

via cnet.com

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