Developer: iOS 4.3 for Verizon probably not coming anytime soon

by Phil Hornshaw

It has been a month and a half since AT&T iPhone owners received an update to iOS 4.3 and still Verizon iPhone owners are stuck in the limbo of iOS 4.2.

And it doesn’t seem like an update is coming anytime soon.

As iOS developer Mike Keller points out over at PC World, Verizon’s (VZ) brand of iOS has actually received several incremental updates to iOS 4.2 since the iPhone 4 was released on the network, but there’s still no sign of iOS 4.3. And apparently, there’s no indication that Apple (AAPL) is bringing a full software update to Verizon in the near future, despite it seeming for weeks now that an update could be coming any day.

This is kind of a big deal in the big picture of Apple’s mobile platform. For one, a big part of the iPhone install base – everyone who uses Verizon, 10 percent of iPhone owners last we heard – isn’t able to use iTunes Home Sharing, a new feature rolled out in iOS 4.3 that allows iOS devices to stream content from one another. They also don’t get the update to Mobile Safari that makes websites load faster.

Keller goes on to discuss the fact that updates to Verizon’s iOS have been released in a timely manner by Apple, and they’ve been important. For example, when the “locationgate” scandal broke out, Apple launched an iOS update for its AT&T (T) phones that corrected the bug the company claimed was in its software that caused iPhone 4’s to log GPS data and basically create a running database that showed everywhere the phone had been. And despite the fact that it hasn’t gotten iOS 4.3 yet, Verizon did receive the location-tracking fix.

Developers like Keller are being contacted by Apple on the issue of compatibility between apps on the Verizon iPhone and the AT&T iPhone:

“Developers have begun receiving e-mails from Apple kindly asking that they re-build and re-submit their apps for iOS 4.2 if they were previously built with 4.3 as the deployment target (and don’t require any of the new frameworks such as the newly renovated AirPlay).”

Not to be a naysayer, but there’s a name for some devices on a platform getting one update, while others get another: fragmentation. Yeah, that’s right, the problem that plagues Google's (GOOG) Android users and is supposed to be one of the big, great reasons to opt for Apple’s highly controlled iOS environment instead is now creeping into the world of the iPhone. And Apple only has two different devices to support, instead of the dozens available on the Android platform.

What’s more, even as Verizon users are getting a second-rate version of iOS, there’s talk that the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile will result in an iPhone for the newly acquired mobile carrier. That would make three carriers and potentially three versions of the iPhone. If that’s the case and Apple doesn’t get these iOS issues worked out (it’s in no way clear what might be holding back iOS 4.3 from Verizon, be the problem technical, business-related, or something else), fragmentation could be a word that comes up in the same sentence as the word “Apple” a lot more frequently.