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Will the iPhone pop up at tomorrow's T-Mobile event?

The iPhone remains a crucial missing piece to the carrier's lineup, and could be the spark that it needs.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere presenting at CES in January.
Lori Grunin/CNET

A T-Mobile iPhone would make the perfect "one more thing" to the carrier's "Uncarrier" event tomorrow.

T-Mobile plans to detail how it will shake up the industry. The invitation reads: "We're still a wireless company. We're just not going to act like one anymore," suggesting an event that is heavily focused on its recent move to kill off the contract and subsidy, and focus primarily on the no-contract option. Tomorrow will also likely mark the official launch of its 4G LTE network, finally bringing it into the LTE game with three other larger national carriers.

But with the iPhone already confirmed to be heading to T-Mobile, the event sounds like the perfect time to provide an update on Apple's flagship phone. The carrier is badly in need of some buzz, and setting a launch date and providing pricing information would energize and excite its subscribers. Despite enhancing its portfolio with other high-end smartphones, the iPhone remains a crucial missing piece to its lineup.

CNET has confirmed that T-Mobile will be talking about the iPhone tomorrow, although the phone will not be out immediately.

"It may be more important than ever: T-Mobile not only needs the iPhone for subscriber retention, it is clearly hoping to use the iPhone to showcase the benefits of its new pricing and financing plans and pull subscribers from rivals," said Avi Greengart, who covers consumer technology for Current Analysis.

T-Mobile declined to comment on whether the iPhone would make an appearance at tomorrow's event, with a representative saying only that "it was worth" attending.

It may be a pipe dream that the iPhone shows up tomorrow. While at a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, T-Mobile CEO John Legere hinted that the carrier would talk about its plans before later launching the iPhone.

T-Mobile may be waiting on a broader deployment of its LTE and HSPA+ network before rolling out the iPhone, Greengart said.

It would, however, make sense timing-wise to talk about the iPhone now, said Roger Entner, a consultant at Recon Analytics. It would be beneficial for T-Mobile to get the iPhone 5 out as soon as possible so that it can enjoy a few months as the flagship Apple phone before the next version comes out, which is rumored to come out as soon as the summer.

T-Mobile's "Uncarrier" event: Join us tomorrow at 8 a.m. PT (live blog)

The iPhone has been noticeably absent at T-Mobile even as it started popping up at other carriers starting in 2011. After Verizon Wireless broke AT&T's exclusive hold over the iPhone that year, Sprint Nextel and a wave of prepaid and regional carriers began selling the phone.

Yet T-Mobile was the lone standout. There was an issue with incompatible spectrum, which the carrier has worked to fix by rolling out its HSPA+ network across a different swath that's friendlier to iPhones. T-Mobile also suggested that the terms that Apple was seeking to carry the iPhone were too onerous.

Composite by Joe Aimonetti/CNET

It's clear that T-Mobile covets the device. Not having the iPhone hasn't stopped T-Mobile from marketing itself as a home for other iPhones. In particularly, the carrier has been aggressive in marketing itself as a place for unsatisfied AT&T customers, offering nano-SIM cards and even showcasing iPhones in its stores -- despite not selling them.

T-Mobile, which has managed to draw 1.9 million iPhones to its network as of January, is attractive because there is no need to sign a contract, the monthly fees are lower, and there is an option of an unlimited data plan. The trade-off is limited coverage of compatible HSPA+ coverage for the iPhone, as well as the lack of 4G LTE for the iPhone 5. That could change with tomorrow's event.

T-Mobile customers are likely keen to see how the carrier will offer the iPhone once it gets the device for itself. Legere promised that the "experience would be dramatically different," suggesting it would tie into its recent move to fully go no-contract.

It's unclear how much the notoriously expensive iPhone will sell at T-Mobile. Without a contract, the iPhone 5 sells for $649.99 at the other carriers. The jumbo Galaxy Note 2 at T-Mobile actually sells for a slightly more upfront price -- $679.99. Under the new no-contract plan, a customer has to pay an additional $20 a month on top of the phone bill for the next two years.

After such a long delay, T-Mobile customers are probably eager to see an iPhone in any shape or form, as long as it's on that carrier.