We’ll be seeing some version of the iPhone available to Verizon subscribers by as early as next year.
That’s the rumor according to the Wall Street Journal, the latest in a veritable flurry of speculation about Apple ending its exclusive agreement with AT&T to expand to other cellular carriers, specifically Verizon.
WSJ reports that “people briefed by Apple” said the company plans to start working on the new phone this year and make them available to be sold on the Verizon network in early 2011. The new iPhone will be slightly different from available models, however, because it will use Verizon’s CDMA technology.
While this is potentially big news for people who wish they had an iPhone but don’t because of their mobile carrier, keep in mind that this rumor has been floating around pretty much since the iPhone debuted in 2007. Apple hasn’t been in a hurry to ditch AT&T, despite complaints about the weaknesses of the carrier’s mobile phone network.
Verizon arguably has the strongest network in the country, which is part of the reason it always comes up in these discussions.
But if it happens, and it seems all consensus is that it eventually will, letting the iPhone bleed out to other carriers could be a serious boon to consumers. Right now, being shackled to AT&T has meant big gains for the wireless carrier, but consumers have been getting the short end in a lot of ways. Anyone who drops their cash on an iPhone is stuck under AT&T’s thumb, and those phones are extremely expensive – especially when trying to purchase one without a two-year cellular contract. It’s not an investment that’s easy to just walk away from if you’re unhappy with AT&T’s service.
Open competition between carriers is going to mean more consumer choice for people who want to buy iPhones, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see plenty of AT&T customers ditch the company to try something new. The additional competition should mean work from both companies (and their competitors) on providing better service to attract the iPhone market their way. And that’s a win for those of us who own iPhones.
But breaking AT&T exclusivity may also encourage rampant iPhone sales, which could harm competition between platforms. One big reason Android-based phones are getting so great is because they’ve had to hack through iPhones to make sales – and that has encouraged Google and companies like Motorola to step up their game and make great products.
At the same time, those phones have had the benefit of attracting customers who are already tied to contracts with different mobile carriers: some of those smartphones’ customers are built-in, which helps spread the product and the word of mouth that is often integral in making any product a success.
Letting the iPhone off the AT&T leash could seriously hamper sales of Android and other smartphones among customers who buy them as an alternative to AT&T. Without being hampered by mobile carrier restrictions, it’s possible the iPhone could start to push back even harder against competing smartphones. A decrease in market share there could potentially lead to fewer good iPhone alternatives, and less effort from Apple to keep developing its phone as a high-quality competitor.
Whether the Verizon rumor proves to be true is only a matter of time and speculation, however – we’ve heard this all before, even if it did come from the Wall Street Journal. The same is true about what kind of additional, or decreased, competition a Verizon iPhone could bring. If it leads to runaway iPhone sales, we might be privy to more situations in which consumers receive a weakened product because iPhone is essentially the only game in town. Then again, maybe our calls will be clearer.