Are 9 Million iPhones Hidden Somewhere in This Merger?

T-Mobile‘s merging with MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) may not only be beneficial for its shareholders and its German parent company Deutsche Telekom, but the new structure also gives Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) a pool of over nine million subscribers that it did not have access to before. The merger, which became official on Wednesday, will offer MetroPCS subscribers access to the best-selling smartphone, which they had not had previously since smaller carriers like Metro typically face huge challenges in landing contracts for the leading handsets.

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Given that the majority of the handsets offered by MetroPCS fall into the $99 ballpark, it’s highly unlikely that the cost-conscious consumers who are drawn to the carrier will spring for a $200 or $300 phone. However, a legacy iPhone such as a free-with-contract iPhone 4 or a $99-with-contract iPhone 4S could end up doing quite well, Gigaom.com speculates. In addition to providing more late-in-the-game feature phone to smartphone upgrade potential, legacy iPhones are still a crucial market for Apple, making up roughly half of all new iPhone sales.

Though nine million new potential iPhone activations seems somewhat trivial next to the other markets that Apple is courting (think along the lines of China Mobile), it presents an opportunity for Apple to grab share that would otherwise align itself with another system — notably Android — in arguably one of the most competitive of consumer markets.

However, despite the new opportunity for Apple, MetroPCS subscribers shouldn’t hold their breath, according to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who said that an iPhone probably wouldn’t be happening in the near future.

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“The answer to that is not ‘No’,” Legere said, when asked about the iPhone being bridled for MetroPCS. “It’s not imminent; I think that’s safe to say.”

In all fairness, the companies have a lot to settle in the meantime until the dust from the merger clears. Legere said that the company had started dialogues with its partners, but that the discussion also involved Apple as well. T-Mobile itself hasn’t quite figured out where it wants to slot the iPhone for its own service, let alone pushing it to the smaller carrier. Reportedly though, the company will be branding some of its own current offerings with MetroPCS’s badge, in efforts to minimize spectrum changes as a result of the merger.

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