Our look at some of the big stories in mobile today: Who would buy Sprint?; HP (NYSE: HPQ) reports early; Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) pushes a cheap Android device; a retailer in the UK downplays iPhone 5 launch rumors, while some wonder if Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has another retail launch scheduled for this week.
— Sprint: One of the bigger aftershocks of AT&T (NYSE: T) buying T-Mobile USA (if it gets approved) is that it could spur some more big M&A activity in the U.S. market, namely concerning the number-three operator, Sprint (NYSE: S), which itself would become an acquisition target, according to CEO Dan Hesse (pictured). The most-likely buyer? CenturyLink, according to analysts at Piper Jaffray (via Bloomberg), which cite the operator’s strong cash position and lack of wireless arm as two key factors.
— HP: HP will be reporting quarterly earnings today, one day ahead of schedule, in order to reassure investors who began to sell off shares and cause a dip in its price after a Bloomberg report that cited CEO Leo Apotheker memo warning of a “tough quarter” ahead and requesting minimum spending and hiring (via Reuters). Shares of HP have declined by some 17 percent in the last three months.
— Vodafone: Who said cheap Android phones were only for developing markets? Vodafone has now launched a handset priced at €90 ($127) in Europe — and that’s the listed price that a user pays on a pay-as-you-go contract, not on a two-year plan. The device, to be sold under the brand name Vodafone Smart, is aimed at that 60 percent of buyers that have yet to make the leap to smartphones from feature phones because of price, although moves like this will mean more price pressure on all smartphones overall, both high- and low-end. It is made by Huawei, runs Android 2.2 and will go on sale this summer. (via Total Telecom)
— iPhone 5: Yesterday we wrote about the latest speculations surrounding the iPhone 5; today a bit more color on that from the UK. The retailer Phones4U has denied reports that it will be carrying the iPhone 5 come November 21: “No official date has been issued as of yet,” the company told Pocket Lint.
— Apple retail: Meanwhile, does Apple have something up its sleeve for some time around May 19? The blog ipodnn notes that Apple retail stores have been showing signs of preparing for some kind of launch: downloading large files, the signing of NDAs by workers, and even some use of black curtains to cover windows. Apple retail stores are approaching their 10th anniversary so it could be something to mark this occasion: the blog points to a MacBook Air update as a likely candidate.