Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Newest Competitor: Sprint Nextel Corporation (S)?

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For better or for worse, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) relies heavily on wireless carriers and their hefty subsidy payments. Carriers have been trying to everything in their power to reduce subsidy expenses in recent years, although consumers still largely call the shots. If the subsidy-intensive iPhone is what they want, then the carriers have little choice but to pay up.

In an effort to promote even more competition in the already highly competitive smartphone market, Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) has decided to jump in directly with a new Sprint-branded smartphone.

Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S)

The Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) Vital is launching on Friday, priced at $100 on contract. The device packs in numerous high-end features at that mid-range price point, and naturally Sprint’s goal is to profit off the service plans rather than the device itself. The Vital will run a stock version of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, with Sprint conservatively pre-installing its apps. This is far from the widespread trend to overlay excessive software modifications, but Sprint still wants you to use its services.

The new device will sport a 5-inch display and a QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processor, the MSM8960. That’s the same chip that powered numerous flagship Androids from 2012, so Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) is saving a little bit on costs by not going with QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM)’s newest silicon.

Of course, Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) isn’t designing or manufacturing this device itself. It’s tapping a white-label ODM to make the phone for it, which it then rebrands and sells under its own yellow umbrella. In this case, we’re talking about Chinese vendor ZTE (which is now the No. 5 vendor in the world). The choice is unsurprising since the Vital looks very similar to the ZTE Grand S LTE.

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