No, it's not official yet, but after years of rumors and gossip, it appears that a Verizon Wireless iPhone will be a reality early next year. It would be an understatement to say this would be a very big deal--not only to Apple and Verizon, but also to AT&T, which would lose its exclusive hold on Apple's device. We know that CNET readers have a lot of questions about what could happen, so we've prepared this FAQ to lay out what we know and what we don't know, and to give our predictions as to how it will all develop. And please chime in with your own takes in the comments section.
Rumors have been going around about the Verizon iPhone for years. Is it now a sure thing? We sure hope so, if only so we don't have to continue reporting the same rumors over and over again. But truthfully, the reports that the iPhone is heading to Verizon have been gaining momentum, and though the recent reports come from different sources, they are similar in detail. The Wall Street Journal (a frequent outlet of leaks directly from Apple) has been reporting since earlier this year that Apple would start mass-producing a CDMA phone. Many reports named China as the destination of a CDMA device, but on October 6 the newspaper said it would land at Verizon. The source was a person "briefed by Apple."
More recently, in a Fortune profile of Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg came additional confirmation. The report on Friday, October 29 includes direct quotes of discussions between Seidenberg and Steve Jobs about the relationship between Verizon and Apple. Without quoting anyone at Verizon directly, Fortune reports the iPhone coming to the CDMA network early next year is "fait accompli."
There have been other signs, too: AT&T raised its early-termination fees to $325 this spring, perhaps in anticipation of customers leaving it and its unreliable network (in certain areas) for Verizon. Also, the news yesterday that Verizon will sell the iPad (bundled with a 3G hot spot) provides proof that the two companies now have a working business relationship. In contrast, a Wired story earlier this year suggested that there were business and contractual details holding the two up from working together.
And Verizon certainly isn't denying that it will get the iPhone anymore. Though a representative said this spring there were no plans to offer Apple products "any time soon," executives are telling a different story now. Here's what Lowell McAdam, Verizon's president and COO, said to CNET in an interview at the fall CTIA show: "I've been saying for a couple of years now that I feel that Verizon's and Apple's business interests will eventually align."
So when could we see the Verizon iPhone? Reports point to a January introduction of a Verizon iPhone, but it sounds like it would be the same iPhone 4 model currently available from other carriers, except with CDMA chips inside. Though Apple has for the past four years introduced new iPhone products once a year (June or July), its carrier relationships haven't stuck to the same schedule. China Unicom, for instance, began selling the iPhone last September. So it's entirely possible Apple won't wait until June to introduce a Verizon iPhone if it's the current model. Consider also that Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg will give a keynote address at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show on January 6. Though we'd never expect that Apple CEO Steve Jobs would let someone else get the spotlight for an announcement of this magnitude, it's still an interesting data point. … Read more