When Sprint confirmed that the iPhone 4S was headed to the US's Alamo of unlimited data, current Sprint subscribers feared that a tidal wave of iDevices could finally force the company to surrender to tiered data pricing.
Speaking to Forbes, CEO Dan Hesse said the iPhone was actually having the opposite effect, and that Apple's smartphone would actually reduce the rate of growth of smartphone data consumption because it uses Sprint's network more efficiently. Hesse claims the iPhone uses significantly less mobile data, and hits the network less often, than Android devices. Apple's strict guidelines about app network efficiency mean the iPhone, on average, is less data-hungry than its competitors.
While Hesse didn't provide any statistics to back this assertion up, the fact that Apple has such network usage regulations in the first place, and that Android does not, makes it seem like a pretty reasonable proposition to us. We'd be very interested in seeing some objective data (no pun intended) on this topic, though.
Hesse went on to say that Sprint would not release figures regarding iPhone sales until Apple's phone had been available on the network for a full quarter. Some analysts predicted that the iPhone could quickly make up 50% of the carrier's smartphone sales, but Hesse was sure not to set unrealistic expectations, saying that estimate was "a bit high."
Hesse also claims that many iPhone users on Sprint are new subscribers. This clashes to some extent with his assertion that the iPhone is helping Sprint keep unlimited data, as the device is clearly adding some new subscribers the carrier would not otherwise have acquired. This means the load on Sprint's data network is probably experiencing a noticeable increase. There's also the fact that any increased burden on Sprint's notoriously slow 3G is probably providing practical limitations on unlimited data. Unlimited may not be much use to customers experiencing data slowdowns caused by increasing network congestion.