Report: Verizon iPhone Coming in 2011
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is finally giving up its iPhone monogamy and inviting Verizon to the dance as well.
The story, quoting "people briefed by Apple", says the new iPhone will be produced this year for sale next year. The phone will be apparently be identical to the current iPhone 4, except that it will have a different chip for connecting to the Verizon wireless network. Verizon uses a different wireless technology than AT&T, which has been Apple's sole iPhone partner since its birth in January 2007.
Most industry-watchers won't be surprised by the news; AT&T and Apple have had a testy relationship since the beginning. Several iPhone unveilings have gone terribly wrong, including the launch of the most recent version, iPhone 4. Most of AT&T's order system was down, leading to some retailers taking iPhone 4 orders with a pad and paper. Apple has consistently blamed its partner for these failings, and AT&T has responded in kind. In fact, a Wired magazine story from over the summer reported that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was so unhappy with AT&T that he asked at least six times for Apple to drop the company and find another carrier.
Apple isn't immune to criticism, however, having faced a barrage of negative press over the iPhone 4's external antenna. Numerous reports of dropped calls if the phone was held in the left hand prompted Consumer Reports to not recommend the phone, the first iPhone to hold that negative distinction. The problem was so bad that Apple was forced to launch a program to give away free phone bumpers, which would cover the antenna and eliminate the problem, to all iPhone 4 buyers. The Journal article did not say if the Verizon phone would contain a different antenna design.
If the story is accurate, it could mean a tectonic shift in the current smartphone wars. iPhone sales have been eclipsed by Google's Android platform, which is sold by numerous carriers. Adding Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, to its list of vendors would open up a whole new world of potential customers to Apple. Verizon's network coverage is larger than AT&T's, and many people prefer it.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.