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The iPhone probably isn't coming to Verizon just yet

Here we go again: Somebody runs a story based on unnamed, third-party sources saying that Apple might ship a version of its iPhone compatible with Verizon Wireless--which in Internet retelling, becomes "iPhone coming to Verizon!"--which then leads to glum disappointment six months later when the iPhone is still available only on AT&T Wireless.

The latest rerun of this cycle began yesterday when the Wall Street Journal published a cautiously phrased piece that left a reasonable amount of wiggle room:

The new iPhone would work on a type of wireless network called CDMA, these people said. CDMA is used by Verizon Wireless, AT&T's main competitor, as well as Sprint Nextel Corp. and a handful of cellular operators in countries including South Korea and Japan. The vast majority of carriers world-wide, including AT&T, use another technology called GSM.

As that description suggests, a CDMA iPhone (the letters stand for "code division multiple access," the standard used by Verizon and Sprint) doesn't have to feature Verizon's logo or even show up in the U.S., thanks to that technology's fairly extensive use in some Asian markets.

And Apple might decide that it could attract far more customers there than in the U.S.

That may explain why AppleInsider cites two analysts as saying a CDMA iPhone will arrive in Asia first, and why PCMag.com reporter Sascha Segan--a washingtonpost.com alumnus and one of the smarter observers of the mobile-phone business around--suggests that a "CDMA iPhone" might support only a made-in-China CDMA variant called "TD-SCDMA".

(Note that although South Korea is a CDMA market, the iPhone that Apple sells there uses the same GSM standard as its U.S. and European versions.)

Meanwhile, Verizon is already talking up its plans to upgrade its network from CDMA to a newer standard called LTE ("long term evolution") that should be about as widely used internationally as GSM is today. Unless a new iPhone would support both CDMA and LTE, I have a hard time imagining how Verizon--the company that never misses a chance to brag about its network--would sell a flagship device that couldn't connect to its fastest service. But the WSJ story doesn't mention LTE.

(TheStreet.com splashes cold water on the idea for a different reason: Verizon still doesn't want to let Apple dictate the design of its phones.)

There's one other reason to doubt this month's version of the Verizon-iPhone rumor. Every other version of it--a 2007 ZDNet column headlined "Verizon iPhone WILL be here within a year or so," a 2008 9to5mac.com report, USA Today's April 2009 "Apple and Verizon consider iPhone deal" story, GigaOM's "Verizon to Launch an iPhone Next Year?" report from last November, and all the rumors suggesting that Apple would wrap up its January unveiling of the iPad by announcing a Verizon iPhone--has been wrong.

If you'd let each of those stories delay your upgrading an old Verizon phone in the hopes of replacing it with a CDMA iPhone--well, you'd have an awfully beat-up Palm Treo by now. You'd also be the telecom equivalent of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

I understand why people hope to see an iPhone that isn't permanently bolted to AT&T. We'd like to shop for phones the way we do most other electronic gadgets, without worrying about artificial locks and restrictions. You could see the same sort of wishful thinking behind the anticipation for Google's Nexus One phone, which then turned out to be subject to the same carrier-specific limits as other devices running its Android software.

I would like to be wrong in my skepticism this time, if for no other reason than that I'd no longer have to answer "when's the iPhone coming to Verizon?" e-mails. But I just don't see the evidence or the technological logic for that.

Want to convince me otherwise? The comments are all yours...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 30, 2010; 10:24 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile  
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Comments


The question is, who needs an iPhone? The Droid is already a better device than the iPhone in every respect.

Some of what the Motorola Droid has that the iPhone does not

1. multitasking
2. voice activated GPS with spoken, turn-by-turn directions
3. removable/replaceable battery
4. a flash camera
5. removable storage, 16GB micro SD card
6. a real keyboard
7. apps that are not owned or controlled by Apple

I could go on and on.

Posted by: screwjob11 | March 30, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I think you hit the nail right on the head. At this point, everyone will need to play catch up to the Sprint 4G device.

Posted by: elvisisdead1976 | March 30, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Apple looks to be building a nice side-business in collecting rents from CD's, books, movies and so on through the iTunes store. Verizon has its own version. Why would they let Apple horn in on that, when Verizon has its own app store, musicast, etc.? iPhone coming to Verizon? I don't think so.

Posted by: miffedone | March 30, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I need a cell phone that:

— Transmits and receives phone calls
— Transmits and receives text messages -- something my kids insist on. I couldn't care less, they're bloody expensive.

I don't care if it takes photos -- I have perfectly good Nikons for that. I'd prefer it not, as it's a security hassle at many places, but I'm not willing to pay more money for the same instrument without the photo capability.

I don't want to surf the internet - I have a laptop and a desktop computer for that.

I don't want to play music -- I have a TEAC stereo system for that.

If I need a GPS, I'll buy a Mil-spec GPS.

So, who cares if Apple -- or anyone else has a phone that does all these things -- at, I add, considerable cost.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | March 30, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't wait until you posted a column on these newest rumors, Rob. Thanks for your balance. Crazy how the rumors could drive the stock prices up for Apple, though, isn't it?!

Posted by: rjrjj | March 30, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I think you are correct, Verizon is not going to be getting an iPhone soon. I agree with a previous poster about the iTunes Store vs. Verizon's own store. I bet that is the biggest thing holding this up.

People can argue as much as they want about iPhone vs. others, this article isn't really about that.

And then we have rmlwj1. Why are you even reading this? Go get one of those stupid Jitterbug things. Why do you even need a cell phone? Don't you have a home phone already? And txting? Why do you need that? Don't you have a typewriter at home and can send messages using USPS?

Posted by: SSFromNO | March 30, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

mlwj1 wrote: "If I need a GPS, I'll buy a Mil-spec GPS."

Why a mil-spec GPS? And what exactly does a mil-spec GPS offer than others don't?

Posted by: Quaesitum | March 30, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I agrree -- I suspect they're using a leak to drive up the price to AT&T in exclusivity negotiations.

One quarrel with your article: It is not the case that "We'd like to shop for phones the way we do most other electronic gadgets, without worrying about artificial locks and restrictions."

Consumers have proven themselves quite willing to accept those locks and restrictions in exchange for significant product discounts. Look no further than the iPhone, which originally sold for $500, but not well, and really took off only after AT&T started subsidizing it while requiring a 2-year contract.

Sure, I'd love an unlocked, no-contract phone. But I also like me that $300 discount. On balance I'd prefer the unlock, but I'm not typical of the average consumer.

Posted by: ah___ | March 30, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The iPhone is trouncing the Droid in sales and yes, the Droid is a better phone. So, of course Verizon would kill for the iPhone and they may get it. Sound illogical? Not for Apple. It's all marketing. Chicks do the iPhone, they don't Droid. Old folks do the iPhone, they don't Droid.
Droid isn't even a good name for a phone. It's a name for a nerd device. Don't these guys understand branding and marketing? The word Apple says it all. Don't believe me? Just look at the price of the stock!

Posted by: magnifco1000 | March 30, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Jitterbug! Haha. But, rmlwj1, I can see where you are coming from and I used to be there myself. I was never a big fan of cell phones until I got my iphone 3gs; I just can't imagine life without it.

Posted by: ozpunk | March 30, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

@robpegoraro

"The Nexus One essentially ties you to one carrier by only offering 3G mobile-broadband speeds on T-Mobile's tiny network; you can use it on AT&T Wireless, which uses the same basic GSM wireless technology, but will experience speeds much closer to dialup Internet."

This changed, Google now sells an AT&T/Rodgers version that can get a 3G signal on those networks. https://www.google.com/phone/choose?hl=en&gl=US&s7e=

At least they are trying to give you a choice between the 2 GSM carriers in the U.S. Technically, it seems like you can't even build an unlocked GSM phone that would get 3G signals from both T-Mobile or AT&T. It is one or the other, correct?

Posted by: bwparker1 | March 30, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

All valid comments as to why Apple won't go to Verizon....except you perhaps are missing 91 million reasons why they will - the Verizon customer base. At this point, you would have to think the ATT customer base for iPhone has matured. The iPhone has been out for nearly 3yrs and any of the 2yr phone/service contracts have ended enabling those that want to switch to switch. If there is going to be any more meaningful increase in iPhone sales in the US, they will have to go to Verizon.

Posted by: pr945 | March 30, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Who cares if the iPhone comes to Verizon? The Nexus One is coming!

Posted by: Pawtry | March 30, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I think Rob had in right in that Apple is not willing to sell a phone that is locked into Verizon's marketplace and Verizon is not willing to accept one that is not. Both of them make too much money from their marketplace and both are stuboorn enough that they won't bend.

Posted by: mdembski1 | March 30, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

When the LG GW990 comes out later this year the iphone will be an obsolete has been.

Posted by: brattykathyi1 | March 30, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, the Droid is a phone made for a 14 year boy, as in, "oh cool you have a Droid". That's not a name marketed at grownups at all.

Posted by: jeffcoud1 | March 30, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The phone is actually called Android, not Droid I believe.

In New England, Verizon has the only useful network outside of cities for voice and a better one for data than anyone else by far. I hope iPhone comes to Verizon, if only to compete with the Android.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | March 30, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't want to convince you otherwise. I think your analysis is good.

I think, though, that it might be reasonable for Verizon Wireless to offer an iPhone with its existing CDMA system.

It will be a few years before LTE is nationwide. And for at least a couple of years, even with LTE, Verizon will rely on CDMA for voice and lower-speed data (EV-DO) as a default, and LTE for higher-speed data where available (a dual mode device -- there are chipsets from Qualcomm that can handle both today).

The existing Verizon CDMA system is VERY good for voice and I think it will be a few years before Verizon relies on LTE-only for voice -- it will take that long for LTE coverage to get to the point where equivalent voice quality can be had.

EV-DO, which is based on CDMA, continues to improve as well. Maybe there could be one product cycle with just CDMA. The iPhone life span is not that great due to its fragility.

Posted by: SteveDC1 | March 30, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

fr magnifico1000:

>...Chicks do the iPhone, they don't Droid. Old folks do the iPhone, they don't Droid....

There are two points that are wrong with your above statement.

1. "Chicks don't droid". SOOO wrong. I'm a woman and have the HTC Droid and LOVE it.

2. "Old folks don't droid". Again sooo wrong. I'm in my mid 50's.

As a college prof of mine used to say: "Clear as mud now? GOOD".

Posted by: Alex511 | March 30, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

@ah___: Fair point. OTOH, only one of the carriers, T-Mobile, lets you pay less each month to use an unsubsidized and unlocked phone.

@magnifco1000: Stereotype much? (I should point out that we're conversing in the comments section of a blog, an activity that by itself might invite all kinds of insults from outsiders.)

@bwparker1: The iPhone can connect at 3G speeds to both AT&T and T-Mobile--as one result, an ex-Apple developer I know hacked his iPhone to use T-Mobile's service.

@pr945: That's the logic you can see behind the analyst quotes in the WSJ story. But I think that same logic would have led Apple to make a CDMA version of the iPhone years ago; something else stops it, most likely the still-secret exclusivity deal between AT&T and Apple.

@jeffcoud1: And "iPad" is?

@Muddy_Buddy_2000: Android software on many phones, one of which is called the Motorola Droid. (Well, except for HTC's confusingly-named Droid Eris.) And yet I hear people refer to Android phones as "Droids" fairly often.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | March 30, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

hello, i'm rmlwj2

i don't want lightbulbs, i have candles for that.

i don't want a car, i have a horse for that.

i don't want a watch, i have a "Mil-Spec" sundial.

you sound like a grumpier version of my grandfather!

Posted by: bigdaddyfat | March 30, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

What's the use of all these gadgets on a phone if the network, it is attached to, is worthless with dropped calls and poor signals? iPhone rules as long as you don't depend on it for use as a phone. Verizon has the best network and they do brag because it is true! I don't care what kind of phones Verizon has as long as when I make a call it goes through and stays connected. Isn't that what a cell phone is for?

Posted by: mark1161 | March 30, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

screwjob11 is just bitter that noone is socializing with his Zune.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 30, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I want an iPhone.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | March 30, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I see a lot of Droid users posting comments to this article. I think you're missing the bigger picture of why Apple would move to a new carrier.

I have a 1st generation iPhone. Having been with AT&T (living in Atlanta no less!) has been a bit of a nightmare. The dropped calls and poor call quality are a big disappointment. I never thought I would look for another cell phone until the HTC phones came out. The other day, I found myself looking at their latest phones, knowing that I am no longer in a contract w/AT&T. Most of my family & friends (and then some) have the iPhone and we all grumble about the AT&T service. Apple knows they have to do something because they'll start losing customers at a steady stream over this next year. They have big contenders to compete with now, and as someone previously mentioned, if you can't make a call, what good is the device?

If Apple doesn't move the iPhone 4G to another carrier, I will most certainly buy an HTC phone.

Posted by: Lizmara | March 30, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

@robpegoraro

I believe that you are mistaken, you can get the iPhone to run on T-Mobile, but it is at 2G speeds. See here:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=480038

Nope,

T-Mobile and AT&T use 2 different 3G radio frequencies, T-Mobile (1700mhz, 2100mhz) AT&T (850mhz, 1900mhz) These can not be changed in the phones. So the Iphone 3G and 3GS will not work with T-Mobile 3G frequencies, however they will work on EDGE (2G).

Posted by: bwparker1 | March 30, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey Lizmara - I'm in ATL too. ...and you expressed exactly why I waited for the Droid. On the other hand, what's with Verizon/Moto's inability to roll out Android 2.1 and Flash?

Even on 2.01, I still get faster responses than my iPhone-wielding friends. Add to that, Verizon CS, which although marginal at least gets me in touch with an English speaking human before my battery dies - something that ATT could only claim in a political campaign.

Posted by: fr3dmars | March 30, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

As a former iPhone user who recently switched to the Nexus One, I am sure of one thing: thank you Apple for being a pioneer in the smartphone market, but I am never going back to your restrictive hardware/software design again.

Posted by: Chuckled | March 30, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

magnifco1000:T Chicks do the iPhone, they don't Droid. Old folks do the iPhone, they don't Droid.
___________
I'm a female and I'm 55 years old. I love my Droid. In fact I have a number of friends, all female, who have Droids too. I was dying for an iphone when they came out but I won't switch from Verizon. My daughter went off our family plan to get an iphone and her calls are constantly dropped. She can't even get reception in our house! When Verizon started pushing the Droid, I figured that they had no intention of carrying the iphone so I decided to go for it. I've been really pleased. And to those who mention that Verizon controls apps? That's wrong. Apps are downloaded through the Android marketplace which is not controlled by Verizon. If the iphone were offered by Verizon? I probably would have gotten one simply because I've always loved Apple products.

Posted by: musiclady | March 30, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

who cares? Verizon is the only wireless carrier that does not suck. Having an iphone with AT&T is worthless.

Posted by: djrhood | March 30, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Why do you say that Verizon has an app store? It is just pathetic, hard to access, and nothing like the iPhone app store - the offerings are few and terrible for my global Blackberry. Also, being outside a major city the Verizon voice coverage is OK but the data speeds suck. So, while a Verizon iPhone is a nice idea, I would not bet on Verizon offering a better iPhone service than ATT.

Posted by: crp3 | March 30, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Congrats for this great article.
I agree with you on all the facts that you have been clever, detailing every one of them.

But I just don't see the evidence or the technological logic for that, as well.

But I see the interest in someone to boost up for some business reason , the apple stocks, as it did , after this rumor, Maybe a Wall Street related site? ;)

Posted by: akitayo | March 30, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

How bout this--being able to use your smartphone on any service. Is it that hard people? Yes, it's super hard, and it shouldn't be.

Posted by: BMACattack | March 31, 2010 1:55 AM | Report abuse

I believe that AT&T also pays Apple a substantial sum (initially around $15 per month per iPhone user; now I believe it is a set amount of several hundred dollars) for iPhone exclusivity. My guess is that this would be the biggest hurdle for Apple to overcome; AT&T wouldn't pay as much if Verizon had the iPhone, and Verizon won't pay as much as AT&T. I'd doubt that Verizon would really say "Yes, we'll turn down millions of customers to keep our App Store control", though you never know.

Posted by: AtlPatrick | March 31, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

You can think too much about this, like anything else.

The fact is that Verizon will offer the iPhone in 6-12 months.

The LTE is far off. The compatibility issues are unknown at this time. A dual mode phone will probably be very expensive and have a battery life specified in minutes. Multi-band Verizon phones are generally purchased for international use so this may not be an issue.

Verizon will sell more than 20+ million iPhones with 10+ million customers, taken out from their competition, very easily. They would be pretty foolish to not do this as quickly as possible. Of course, they may not pursue this as directly as possible due to their corporate-centric culture.

Posted by: AlanBriggs | March 31, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse


I would be much more interested to see the iPhone offered with T-Mobile.

Android fans (such as paid-blogger screwjob11) are focusing on points that simply don't trump the big issues. If the Droid phone is so much better than the iPhone, then why aren't developers marching out thousands of apps for it? Oh, right -- there's a whole ecosystem for the iPhone and everything works nicely together the way you want it. The fragmented Android market -- like the fragmented Windows Mobile market -- is not nearly as lucrative for developers nor as easy for the consumer.

Any of the productivity things that you claim the iPhone can't do (multitasking) are in development and will be available, along with another 100,000 applications for you to choose from ... and all the hardware limitations that you claim -- who cares? How often do you swap out batteries in your phone? Apple Stores help you out with any service needs. If you need a booster battery for extended remote operations, there are a dozen 3rd party vendors with solutions to choose. And so on and so forth.

So, enjoy your 'droid. I'm sticking with my iPhone. Isn't it nice to have a choice?

Posted by: roule | April 1, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

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