Editorial: The Elusive Verizon iPhone

by Doc Coleman - Nifty Tech Editor on October 8, 2010 · 0 comments

in Editorial

Once again, or is it still?, the spectre of a new Verizon iPhone has risen from the dead to plague everyone with a fresh stale round of false hopes. New evidence is being pointed to as a clear indicator that Apple will soon announce a new iPhone for Verizon to be released next quarter. Of course, these rumors have cropped up every quarter since before the original iPhone was announced. And every quarter, they’ve been wrong. I think they’re wrong again. Then again, my position does have the advantage that I can only be wrong once. But even though I believe that Apple won’t be releasing a Verison iPhone anytime soon, I think they’ve built one. Probably several. Let me explain why…

The big arguement against the iPhone for Verizon is, of course, the fact that Verizon’s network uses the CDMA standard instead of the more popular GSM. While Verizon isn’t the only telephone company to use the CDMA protocol, GSM users vastly outnumber the CDMA users. And Apple has pretty consistently followed a policy that if they can’t own the pond, then they want to be an influential little fish in the biggest pond they can find. So they went with GSM and partnered with AT&T in the States. The biggest possible pond in both domestic and international markets.

Verizon proponents will point out that it is to Apple’s advantage to play in both ponds, after all, it works in other markets. Well, that’s as maybe, but doing so would require Apple to design a separate version of the phone that supports the CDMA protocol. Apple could do that, but they don’t want to. They’d have to re-engineer the entire phone just to make a minor change, and they’d have two products competing at the same price point. Apple learned that lesson long ago. And there is that pesky exclusivity agreement with AT&T. Apple could theoretically break it, or pay off the remainder of the term. Corporations have ways out of contracts when they want to get out of them. But Apple says they’re happy with AT&T and don’t want out. And then, of course, there is Verizon. If you think Apple likes to have control, you haven’t met Verizon. Verizon is famous for buying phones from manufacturers, then altering the OS and disabling major functions in order to force customers to use Verizon supplied premium services to do the same thing. Apple isn’t about to sell Verizon a phone and then have them immediately jailbreak it and disable (for example) syncing ringtones with iTunes. No way, no how.

But these are all arguments on why Apple doesn’t want a Verizon iPhone, so why do I think Apple has already built iPhone prototypes that use Verizon? Remember those control issues I mentioned? Apple hates being dependent on someone else. They love having partners who can provide solutions for them, but they hate being under the thumb of a sole provider. This is the reason behind the whole cold war with Google. Apple loves the tools that Google can provide, but they hate the power that gives Google over Apple and Apple’s products. They’re not out to kill Google. Apple still loves playing with Google’s toys. They just don’t want to play with too many at one time, and they want an exit strategy in case Google decides to add some unpleasant conditions to Apple’s access to their toy box.

And that is why I am sure that somewhere at Apple, in some secure lab, are the plans, manufacturing requirements, and a handful of prototypes for Verizon iPhones. It is part of Apple’s exit strategy in case AT&T starts trying to pull something that Apple doesn’t like. So far AT&T doesn’t seem inclined to rock the boat too much, but I feel confident that Apple is ready to roll forward with Verizon if the Death Star starts deciding they are a fully operational battle station. And I do think we will eventually see iPhones on Verizon. That just won’t happen until the 4G networks are operational and Verizon and AT&T are using the same protocols. Or maybe sometime after that.

What do you think?

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