Apple adds another U.S. iPhone carrier (& it’s not T-Mobile)

Turns out Sprint (s S) isn’t the only new U.S. carrier allowed to sell the iPhone (s AAPL) this year. On Wednesday, regional carrier C Spire (formerly known as Cellular South) announced pre-order instructions on its website to buy Apple’s latest smartphone.

What’s sad, though, is that Apple bypassed more well-known T-Mobile in favor of a carrier whose name most people would have to look up. And it’s not that the carrier hasn’t made it clear it wants the iPhone. At our GigaOM Mobilize conference several weeks ago, T-Mobile CMO and EVP Cole Brodman said T-Mobile has asked to sell the popular smartphone, but the ball was in Apple’s court.

Apple hasn’t yet responded why they went with C Spire, but if you look at C Spire and T-Mobile’s respective voice and data coverage maps on their sites, the two are either tied or C Spire has a very slight edge. So that may be one clue.

During Tuesday’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said Apple wants to “make the iPhone more accessible to a broader market,” so going with a smaller, regional carrier like C Spire does fit with that strategy. It’s certainly not a household name the way AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s VZ) are, but if Apple intends to expand the market for its smartphone — and in effect, the rest of its product line — reaching customers where they live is important.