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No, not another 'Verizon iPhone' story!

"When will Verizon get the iPhone?" has become the "are we there yet?" of tech journalists: a question we got tired of long ago but which continues to be asked.

Then again, those of us in the tech press can only blame ourselves for the query's persistence, since we keep writing about it over and over. (See, here I am contributing to the problem. ... I feel a little dirty just writing this post.)

vzw_logo.jpg

Today's grist for the mill comes from a Bloomberg News story that begins "Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile-phone company, will start selling Apple Inc.'s iPhone next year."

Reporter Amy Thomson cites "two people familiar with the plans" who, surprisingly enough, "declined to be named because the information isn't public." In an even more shocking development, Verizon and Apple spokespeople declined to comment or did not respond to queries.

According to these nameless individuals, Verizon will start selling the iPhone in January.

(Cue "OMG Verizon iPhone!!!" exultation from Verizon subscribers with contracts ending in January -- followed by wails of anguish and fury from customers who just re-upped their contracts for another two years.)

Should we find this report any more credible than earlier stories that cited unnamed sources of their own -- all of which have been incorrect so far?

I'll fall back on the logic I laid out in a Help File item 2½ weeks ago after getting the Verizon-iPhone question twice in a few hours (once in a phone call from one of my cousins and a second time in an e-mail from a reader). To recap: Apple doesn't want to make two separate dramatically different versions of the iPhone for the U.S., so nothing can happen until Verizon begins to upgrade its network to a newer wireless standard called LTE (Long Term Evolution) that is also being adopted by AT&T and other carriers that today use the older GSM wireless standard.

So when does Verizon plan to start selling LTE service? In recent weeks, Verizon has begun to point to next year's Consumer Electronics Show as the stage for its LTE launch -- though commercial availability might not happen until weeks or months later.

So maybe this time the stories are for real, and you can think realistically about a possible upgrade to a Verizon iPhone next year. But before you commit to limping along on an aging smartphone you'd otherwise replace before 2011, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 29, 2010; 5:14 PM ET
Categories:  Mobile , The business we have chosen  
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Comments

Apple will still have to make two versions of the iPhone if it is to be launched on Verizon's network. Verizon's LTE buildout will only be in a few markets by the beginning of next year so it will need to be able to fall back to EVDO data where LTE is not available.

Additionally, voice won't be available over LTE for the foreseeable future so a Verizon iPhone would also need to support CDMA voice.

Posted by: techmen | June 29, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

@techmen: Fair point about EVDO compatibility--but it's one thing to have two iPhone models with completely different air interfaces, and it's another to have two that each support LTE but fall back to different standards. I've tweaked the phrasing of that sentence, as you can see.

As for voice calling, Verizon has already said it's going with a voice-over-IP standard for LTE calling--the same one that GSM carriers are apparently adopting.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | June 29, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I think the timing is quite expected. Apple was surely not going to say anything before the launch and have everyone sit on their hands until January. I know I sure plan to wait and see if I can drop AT&T like a hot rock. If the story turns out to be wrong then I just stick with my 3G for a while longer and don't bother with the mad house for now. If a Verizon iPhone does launch, then AT&T can certainly kiss me goodbye.

Posted by: tomboi1978 | June 29, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the clarification. Think the key about LTE over VoIP (from that article) is that there is no timetable and that VZW is expecting to support CDMA voice for 10 more years.

Posted by: techmen | June 29, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

> Apple doesn't want to make two separate
> dramatically different versions of the
> iPhone for the U.S

Apple already makes many different phones for different countries all over the world.

And other companies can do it.

Why can't Apple?

Posted by: alice12 | June 29, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Apple already makes many different phones for different countries all over the world.

And other companies can do it.

Why can't Apple?
Posted by: alice12
--------------
According to reports, Apple originally was dealing with Verizon, but went with AT&T. IIRC, it is an exclusive contract that runs through 2012.

I think a lot of these stories are just floated out to generate more pageviews...

Posted by: charlieartist | June 29, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Recently I was asked if I had a weapon. I said no but actually my old Treo 700P could qualify. I want n iPhone but won't leave Verizon's network. Since I'm 66 and waiting maybe I'll be dead with my weapon.

Posted by: jontriesault | June 29, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

RP:

If both CDMA and GSM carriers are working towards using LTE, would that mean the end to SIM cards for GSM type phones? I certainly hope not, I for one enjoying being able to switch pre-paid GSM service providers by using a an unlocked GSM phone.

Posted by: bwparker1 | June 29, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I think Rob updated his photograph since the iPhone 4 hands on review...

Posted by: maus92 | June 29, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

CDMA is a channel access method used in many other countries (119) by many other carriers (300). It is very unlikely that Apple will decline to serve those nations and carriers for much longer. Over 500 million global subscribers carry a CDMA device. Would any successful smartphone developer continue to ignore this market?

Posted by: thw2001 | June 29, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Verizon service sucks badly. Steve Jobs knows not to get mixed up with Verizon.

Posted by: KaneMan | June 29, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe a word of it. It is just a shameless attempt by Verizon to keep potential iPhone customers around as customers.

People who don't want an iPhone don't care when or if Verizon will get it.

However those that want an iPhone but are Verizon customers are kept on as Verizon customers indefinitely.

Posted by: zuby09 | June 29, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this makes all the sense in the world. Just look at how much good PR AT&T gets from its Apple relationship. Clearly VZ wants a piece of that...or maybe not.

Here is the latest on Apple and Jobs:

http://www.dailygoat.com/2010/06/steve-jobs-claims-iphone-works-great-rubber-band-tin-foil-metal-coat-hanger-coaxial-cable-ceos-inspired-candor/

Posted by: eye95 | June 30, 2010 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I kind of go along a bit with both Rob and techmen. Let me take a crack at this:

We're talking three air Verizon interfaces (generally). The first is cdma2000 used for voice and low-speed data in Verizon's network today. Second is EV-DO which is Verizon's high-speed data interface today (and not practical for packet voice yet). The third is LTE, the migration for which Rob talks about -- LTE can support voice through VOIP but it will be several years before the LTE network is robust enough to support this.

I agree with techmen that Verizon will be supporting cdma2000 voice for at least 5 years, maybe 10 as he suggests. It is SO good compared to VOIP on the other interfaces (and compared to voice on other wireless companies) it will be many years before LTE is ready for it.

EV-DO is very good for high-speed data and continues to be improved. Work is not stopping on EV-DO due to the long rollout seen in LTE (despite press release predictions) -- operators see they can squeeze more out of EV-DO. Theoretically VOIP is possible on EV-DO but not practical.

LTE - Yes, the rollout is starting soon but it will be several years before it gets the same coverage as EV-DO. Also, there will not be VOIP on LTE for several years so you need cdma2000 in the interim as techmen says.

The good news is that Qualcomm makes multimode chips today that can handle it all. One chipset can do cdma2000 voice, EV-DO, and LTE. So one Verizon iPhone could be made to handle all relevant Verizon air interfaces. If and when everything moves to LTE, no big deal. The phone switches automatically. You would probably rather not do multimode for cost reasons if it is not necessary, but it is not that big a deal.

As a further twist, LTE will continue to be improved each year, so eventually the first LTE handsets will become behind the curve, but still usable.

Moreover, iPhones are fragile and I don't think most are going to last more than 2-3 years.

So, yes, I think a Verizon iPhone is plausible soon.

(If Verizon won't talk, you could be sneaky and ask Qualcomm what its projections are for sales of their multimode chipsets.)

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | June 30, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I will stick with Verizon because I have never had a problem with my service. Two of my co workers (AT&T customers) complain constantly about dropped calls. That doesn't happen with my Verizon service and having an Iphone has never been worth it since my cell is the only phone I have. I need it to work when I actually need to make phone calls. Until I have a problem with that, I will stick with Verizon. Besides, I am just not sure I can give up my Blackberry.

Posted by: ctree | June 30, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

As a former Verizon customer, and current ATT iPhone user, I can simply reiterate that the IPhone is part of a very good, tightly integrated information system (iphone/mobileme/Mac OSX) crippled by an inferior carrier. IMAP mobile email and app access to the internet work fairly well, but browsing is just an awful, slow experience. Combine that with sketchy phone connectivity, and you have only a mediocre to average user experience. The only real reason why I stay with AT&T / iPhone is that my company has a healthy discount program with AT&T.

Posted by: maus92 | June 30, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

A couple of unnamed people make a claim that they're "familiar with the plans," and reporters are repeating them as if the claim came from credible sources. Whatever happened to journalistic integrity? What about the possibility that these anonymous sources simply seek to slow sales of the iPhone 4?

Posted by: CuckooRaja | June 30, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

More answers to your questions...

@alice12: Apple still only makes GSM iPhones--one result being that a friend of mine could take the unlocked iPhone he bought in Malaysia, pop in an AT&T SIM and start using it here. Apple could, technically speaking, make both GSM and CDMA phones, but it chooses not to.

@jontriesault: See, this is the kind of thing I won't want to see people doing. If you need a new phone but don't want to leave Verizon, then stop torturing yourself and get a new phone! Stop pining away for something that may never happen.

@bwparker1: No, LTE doesn't mean the end of SIM cards. If anything, I hope it will bring that feature to CDMA carriers (but since those in the U.S. have declined to support CDMA's version of the SIM, the Removable User Identity Module, I'm not optimistic).

@CuckooRaja: If people are plotting to slow sales of the iPhone 4, they're being utterly incompetent at it--Apple has sold more than 1.7 million so far. I am assuming that Bloomberg's reporter has sound reasons to trust her sources--but, of course, I can only assume that, since she doesn't name them. Did you not pick up on the skepticism I've expressed on this topic?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | June 30, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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