Apple requires carriers to purchase a minimum amount of units. In this case, U.S. Cellular is promising to pay Apple $1.2 billion over three years. That works out to roughly 2 million phones. But just because a carrier starts selling the Apple iPhone doesn't mean that the merchandise will move. Last June, pre-paid operator Leap Wireless signed a three year $900 million deal with Apple. Despite a recent bump-up in iPhone sales, Leap says it will not buy any more handsets from Apple.
There is a big difference, however, in selling unsubsidized iPhones like Leap is doing, and charging less than half that amount in return for a two-year lock-up like U.S. Cellular does. Another reason for U.S. Cellular's reversal on the iPhone is that 18 months ago, the carrier did not have 4G LTE service like it has now. Dillon did not give a launch date for the Apple iPhone nor did she specify which iPhone models will be available to U.S. Cellular customers.