Could Apple cut out the carriers from the iPhone equation?

It's now hard to imagine a world without the iPhone. Love it or hate it, this one handset has changed the face of mobile technology forever. But when the iPhone was still nothing more than a rumor, many found it hard to believe that Apple would release a product that relied so heavily on third-parties for a crucial service. Was there a danger that shoddy carrier performance reflect badly on Apple?

It's now hard to imagine a world without the iPhone. Love it or hate it, this one handset has changed the face of mobile technology forever. But when the iPhone was still nothing more than a rumor, many found it hard to believe that Apple would release a product that relied so heavily on third-parties for a crucial service. Was there a danger that shoddy carrier performance reflect badly on Apple?

Up until recently anyone who wanted an iPhone in the US was stuck with AT&T as the carrier (unless you went down the unlock route), and it's fair to say that AT&T isn't well liked among customers (in fact, you could say that it's comprehensively hated). But putting its flagship product on what many considered to be the worst carrier didn't seem to tarnish the iPhone that much.

But could Apple cut the carriers out of the equation? Or at least put the carrier into the background?

Over on Apple Matters is an interesting post by Chris Seibold. His idea - that Apple should buy bandwidth from a number of carriers and put the carriers in the background: 

Welcome to the world of the MVNO. MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network operator. The idea being that instead of building towers and acquiring spectrum these folks just buy a chunk of bandwidth from an established cell provider and let their customers use that bandwidth for their calling and data needs.

You can see the rub with this approach. Where is the incentive on the part of Verizon, Sprint or AT&T to cater to what amounts to a competitor? Why wouldn't they collude and shut Apple out of the cell phone business? The answer is simple and it has to do with dough. Apple has plenty of cash to waive around, plenty of customers and thus plenty of reasons for the cell phone companies to kowtow to it.

It's an interesting idea. Apple would be in a position not only to sell the iPhone to customers, but to also buy and then dish out voice and data to users, both in the US and abroad. Rather than iPhone owner being tied to a single carrier, Apple would given them access to the best network available.

But what about payment? Wouldn't this be a hassle for Apple? Unlikely. The company is already set up for payments of all sizes from consumers (from a few cents for an iOS game to a few grand for a Mac Pro), and I'm certain Apple could get its head around the problem of billing. The simplest option would be an all-you-can-eat voice/txt/data plan - consumers would love it, and it would be a doddle for Apple to administer.

Apple's know for being disruptive, and this would model would be very disruptive to the carrier market.

It's a move that could also put a few more cents in Apple's coffers.

After all, every penny counts ...

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What do you think? Would you got with Apple as your "carrier"?

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