iPhone finally arrives on T-Mobile USA: Better late than never?

But is it too late for T-Mobile? Has Apple seen its iPhone peak, or will the fourth largest US cellular firm be able to claw back its falling subscriber base?

NEW YORK — T-Mobile users, rejoice. The iPhone is heading your way, at long last. And only for $99 with no contract.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert with the iPhone 5 at an event in New York City. (Credit: CNET)

Today, the company announced it would officially start carrying — and selling — the iPhone, as it forms part of its next-generation 4G LTE network launched today. But despite T-Mobile's flipping of the LTE switch today, the LTE-enabled iPhone 5 will not be immediately available. 

The iPhone 5 will arrive in T-Mobile stores on April 12. There is a $20 a month on customers' cell phone bill for 24 months, along with the $99 upfront cost of the device.

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The iPhone's arrival to T-Mobile may be late, considering Verizon and AT&T's support for the Apple phone since it first arrived on the market in mid-2007. Half a decade later, the fourth largest network in the US is taking on the shiny rectangle as part of the firm's bid to redefine itself as different among the rest.

Above all else, it's hoped that — while 1.9 million T-Mobile customers are already iPhone users — the cellular network can claw back at least some of its defecting customer base, particularly in the postpaid contract space.

Almost half-a-million contract customers left the network during the third quarter, the firm said in November, which hit the network's average revenue per user (ARPU) by 7 percent on the same quarter a year ago.

This, for T-Mobile, was bad news. The upshot was that T-Mobile accounted for 365,000 prepaid customers during the quarter, up 44 percent on the same quarter a year ago, signaling a shift in priorities for the end-user. By comparison, its prepaid ARPU rose by more than 12 percent. This ultimately led to a game-changing strategy for the firm which led to it killing its long-term contracts for its customers.

But 33 million customers is still a far cry away from Verizon's 115 million customers and AT&T's 107 million customers, but only a stone's throw away from Sprint's 55 million customers. Throw in the MetroPCS acquisition and the merger, alongside its newfound iPhone love and contract-killing strategy, could see the combined T-Mobile—MetroPCS company (which will fall simply under the T-Mobile brand ) as a hot contender for the third-place position in the US cellular market.

The iPhone alone generates enough buzz to keep Apple in some serious profitability, and T-Mobile is finally set to grab a slice of it — particularly since the shiny rectangle will be offered at an unsubsidized price.

Amid a bevy of popular devices and high-end smartphones, the iPhone remained the missing piece in its portfolio offering. Now it finally has pride of place on T-Mobile's mantelpiece, will enough new customers bite? 

Considering it's already reasonably strong established iPhone customer base, albeit 'unofficially,' exactly how T-Mobile draws in new iPhone customers will be the one to watch.