Is Sprint Betraying Its Customers' Loyalty To Get iPhone 5?

Sprint, the third largest US carrier, is betraying its customers' trust in order to receive the iPhone 5 by abandoning its traditional consumer-friendly policies, some have suggested.

Following Apple's alliance with Verizon and AT&T, Sprint appears as though it will be the third US wireless carrier to receive the iPhone when the fifth-generation handset is announced by new CEO Tim Cook in a few days time.

[ed: You can read our extensive coverage of the iPhone 5 from the very beginning here. Follow Us Live From 18:00 UK time (10am local time) for the iPhone 5 event here.]

A recent survey shows Sprint in second place as the consumer carrier of choice for the iPhone 5, after Verizon, with 26 percent of the vote. Sprint has held its own against rival giants AT&T and Verizon by maintaining a series of consumer friendly policies, including: unlimited, unthrottled data plans, lower subsidised prices for smartphones, and annual upgrades for big spenders, amongst other things.

However, it seems this strategy may have been compromised in order to get the most expected smartphone of the year. Sprint has made various changes to its customer relationship in the lead up to the iPhone launch, including: tightening up its return policy, shutting down the Premier Program, putting a cap on mobile hotspot data, increasing its "administrative fee", and increasing its early termination fee to $350.

Then again, Sprint will still be offering some of the most attractively priced smartphone plans for consumers; though analyst predictions of 1.2 million new subscribers attracted by the iPhone 5 might not be reached if the carrier drifts too far from its consumer-friendly ethos.

However, should Sprint be the only carrier to offer the iPhone 5 on an unlimited data plan (as has been suggested), it could be the trump card against rivals AT&T and Verizon.