This is it, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Well, maybe.
A report today in Bloomberg citing two unnamed sources claims that Verizon Wireless will be getting the iPhone in January. Yes, Verizon, iPhone, January. Naturally, all the companies involved are declining to comment on the record, but Bloomberg sounds pretty confident in the report thanks to their two sources “familiar with the plans.”
This information is close to what the Wall Street Journal was reporting back in March which stated that a CDMA (the type of network Verizon uses) iPhone would be entering production later this year to be released at some point after that. There have been many earlier reports as well. Some dating back years — and some of those may have very well been negotiating tactics by Apple to score a better deal when re-upping with AT&T.
But these latest reports seem to sync up well with recent maneuvers AT&T has been making to ensure they lock in customers for another two years with the new iPhone 4. AT&T allowed many iPhone 3GS buyers to upgrade to the iPhone 4 for the fully early — months early, in some cases. This was either AT&T being nice or them trying to lock users in to a new two-year contract. I’ll let you make up your own mind on that one.
The company also recently upped the early termination fee when you sign a new contract. That way if you do want to break the contract, say if a certain device were all of a sudden offered on another network, you’ll have to pay more to do so.
But the exact nature of Apple and AT&T’s exclusivity agreement has never been fully known. Depending on which report you’ve read in the past couple of years, it was either going to end in 2009, 2010, or 2011. But that deal has undoubtedly been amended along the way. And again, AT&T’s maneuvers of late suggest they may know it could be ending sooner rather than later.
While Apple has for the most part said the right things about the relationship in public, you hear time and time again that they’re not pleased with some of AT&T lackluster performance. Apple CEO Steve Jobs even publicly said as much recently, but noted that the network should improve soon. Perhaps by “soon,” he meant January, when the company can offload a ton of users to a new network.
Still, it’s a little odd that Apple would go with Verizon as their second carrier ahead of someone like T-Mobile, which also runs a GSM network, and as such, wouldn’t require a complete re-working of the iPhone hardware. But Apple undoubtedly also knows that Verizon is the big catch in the U.S. market as they are still the largest carrier, and the one that is perceived to have the best actual service.
Verizon has also been heavily aligning itself with Google’s Android platform in recent months — a move which Apple can’t be too pleased with. Perhaps Apple wants to make the move to Verizon before Android has too strong of a foothold there.
Overall, it’s clear that if Apple does actually want to compete with Android in terms of numbers (which it’s not yet clear that they do — they may prefer to make more revenue per device sold instead), they’re going to need to move beyond AT&T. The network is quite simply its biggest inhibitor to growth at this point. Android phones, meanwhile, are on all the major carriers. The iPhone is still far outselling any single Android device, but put them all together, across all those networks, and it simply will be very hard for Apple to match that volume the way things are currently.
Something else to think about: if the iPhone (presumably the iPhone 4) is coming to Verizon, does it mean the iPad will too? Perhaps Apple really did intend to use the 3G iPad as a parting gift for AT&T — on top of giving them a few months exclusive on the iPhone 4. Remember, the iPhone on Verizon doesn’t mean it won’t be on AT&T too, it just means it won’t exclusively be there anymore. Apple still has to maintain a relationship with AT&T going forward as they will continue to be an important partner regardless.
The January timeframe for a Verizon iPhone could make sense as Apple likes to do big events in January. In previous years, that’s been Macworld, but this year it was the event to unveil the iPad. Don’t be surprised if Apple holds another iPad event in January 2011 — but this time the “one more thing” just may be a Verizon iPhone. The ultimate “Boom!“
God I hope so.