**Editor's Note: Click here for a look back at how some of the industry's biggest players fared in Q2.**
Despite the late September debut of the iPhone 5, overall sales of Apple's iconic smartphone were flat for Sprint in the third quarter, contributing to a lackluster earnings report.
Sprint activated 1.5 million iPhones in Q3; that's the same number it activated in the two previous quarters, the company said Thursday morning on its earnings call.
America's third-largest wireless carrier saw revenue per postpaid customer jump 5 percent year-over year, but its number of service contracts fell by 106,000. That compares with an increase of 1.5 million for one of its chief competitors, Verizon Wireless. AT&T also saw a slight increase during the period, it announced Wednesday.
Verizon – and AT&T for that matter – have a considerable advantage in technology. Sprint just started rolling out its super-speedy 4G LTE network this year, while Verizon's made its debut nearly two years ago and AT&T's new network has been spreading across the country for more than a year now. Sprint's also had rights to sell the iPhone for less time – just a year. The company is trying to set itself apart by offering a truly unlimited data plan.
"There are some temporary advantages that Verizon has due to its network, but we do not see making any changes to our rate plans," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said on a conference call, as quoted by MarketWatch.
The game-changer for Sprint could be its pending deal with SoftBank. The Japanese company has agreed to buy 70 percent of Sprint for a little more than $20 billion. If approved by regulators, the infusion of cash could help the Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier better compete with its larger rivals. It could also help the company buy the rest of Clearwire, the spectrum-rich broadband provider, of which it already owns half.
Sprint stock was down 3 cents, to $5.58, as of 11:04 a.m. ET Thursday.