As the old aphorism goes, "better late than never." In this case, that's true for U.S. Cellular, which today announced as part of its quarterly earnings report that it will begin carrying Apple products later this year.
That may make U.S. Cellular the last major US carrier to offer the iPhone to its customers. The big four -- AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile -- all carry iPhones, and smaller carriers TracFone and Leap Wireless/Cricket also offer the iPhone to customers. MetroPCS just completed a merger with T-Mobile, with T-Mobile CEO John Legere saying that the iPhone is "not imminent" on the MetroPCS network.
U.S. Cellular, which boasts 5.7 million subscribers, didn't provide any specifics about what models would be introduced, but noted that "by further strengthening our device portfolio, we'll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular."
In late 2011, the company said it would not carry the iPhone because "terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint." At that time, CEO Mary Dillon said that she remained open to carrying the handset in the future. It's not clear what has changed in the interim; perhaps the widespread acceptance and growth of the smartphone market now makes carrying the iPhone a must for carriers wishing to retain customers.