Apple IPhone 4 Ban Isn’t Seen as Setback for U.S. Carriers

AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. said the International Trade Commission’s decision to ban versions of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 as part of Apple Inc.’s patent suit with Samsung Electronics Co. will have little effect on sales.

“We anticipate minimal, if any, impact for customers wanting an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 -- both of which remain available in AT&T retail and online channels,” Dallas-based AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, said today in a statement. “If needed, AT&T can order additional devices to meet customer demand.”

The ITC posted a notice on its website yesterday saying a potential ban would extend to older Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 3G that work on the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. The iPhone 4, which first debuted in 2010, is one of Apple’s older models and isn’t among the top phones sold by these carriers, according to Canaccord Genuity. Other carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. weren’t affected by the ban because they use different technology.

The ITC’s import-ban order is subject to review by President Barack Obama. The president can overturn it on public-policy grounds, though that rarely happens. Apple can keep selling the devices during a 60-day review period.

That two-month period will bring Apple closer to the release of the next iPhone. When a new model comes out, often around mid-year, Apple typically pushes down the prices of its other versions and discontinues the oldest one -- in this case, the iPhone 4. The 3GS, released a year before the iPhone 4, stopped being offered by carriers in 2012.

Not Concerned

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, said it wasn’t expecting any disruption.

“T-Mobile doesn’t anticipate any impact from yesterday’s ITC order in terms of our current and future supply of Apple devices,” said Anne Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Bellevue, Washington-based company.

Already, the iPhone 4 is sold at rock-bottom prices by the carriers. AT&T offers the device for 99 cents with a two-year contract, compared with $199.99 for the iPhone 5. T-Mobile, which sells devices using installment plans, charges an $18 down payment for the iPhone 4 followed by $18 a month for two years.

In a filing with the agency, Samsung estimated the order would affect about 1.4 percent of the smartphones and 2.7 percent of the tablet computers sold in the U.S.

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