At a press conference in New York City today, Verizon said it will soon begin selling Apple's iPhone.
The device will be available on its network starting in early February, COO Lowell McAdam said to a gathering of press at Lincoln Center. It's the same model iPhone 4 that AT&T and international carriers currently sell except that it connects to the CDMA network instead of GSM.
Starting on February 10, a 16GB model will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract, according to Verizon Wireless' Web site. The 32GB model will sell for $299.99. An extra feature Verizon will offer is the phone's ability to be a personal Wi-Fi "hot spot." Up to five Wi-Fi devices can connect to the Verizon iPhone at one time.
Despite early rumblings, Steve Jobs did not join McAdam on stage for the announcement. That job fell to Apple COO Tim Cook. He told the gathering of press that Apple is "very excited to bring the iPhone to Verizon's 93 million customers and new customers who want to use the iPhone 4 on Verizon."
Verizon's customers will get first dibs on the phone. On February 3, a week before the scheduled launch, existing subscribers will have opportunity to pre-order the phone. McAdam did not delve into any details about pricing plans during the event. (See CNET's first take of the new iPhone here.)
Despite the white version of the iPhone 4 being listed in Verizon's marketing materials on its Web site, a Verizon representative told CNET there is no confirmed date when the white model will be available. The white iPhone 4 for all carriers has been delayed several times since June.
Speculation that a Verizon iPhone announcement was coming today had been rampant following a press invitation from the carrier Friday announcing a "news" event. But rumors of such a device have been around for years. At the event this morning, McAdam acknowledged the speculation, joking, "If the press writes something long enough and hard enough, it comes true."
Verizon getting its hands on the iPhone means AT&T is no longer the only iPhone carrier in the U.S. AT&T reportedly had an exclusive contract with Apple for what was initially reported to be five years, starting in 2007.
McAdam said the journey to bring the iPhone to Verizon began two years ago. In 2008, they talked about bringing an iPhone to the CDMA network and it was designed and tested "to make sure it would come up to the standards of Verizon."
Despite its launch of almost a dozen 4G phones for its upcoming LTE network at CES last week, the iPhone Verizon sells will use CDMA technology, not LTE. Apple's Cook said there were two reasons for that: the first generation of LTE chipsets "forced design compromises," and "Verizon customers want the iPhone now."
Though it will be first, Verizon does not have an exclusive contract to carry the CDMA model iPhone, Cook said. That means we can likely expect announcements from CDMA carriers in other countries in the next few months.
While Apple did not redesign the iPhone 4's infamous wraparound antenna band in the course of building the CDMA model for Verizon, there has been at least one subtle design change: the ringer/mute switch on the left side was moved down slightly. That means iPhone 4 cases currently in stores and bumpers won't fit this model.
Corrected at 9:42 a.m. PT with accurate information about the availability of the white iPhone 4. Though Verizon has listed it in its press materials, it will not be available next month.