The iPhone comes to Verizon Wireless . . . finally

After years of speculation, Verizon finally confirms it will sell the iPhone, beginning in February. But don't expect it to run on the new super-fast 4G LTE network.

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Apple's iPhone 4, coming soon to Verizon Wireless subscribers.

After years of speculation, Verizon finally confirms it will sell the iPhone, beginning in February. But don't expect it to run on the new super-fast 4G LTE network.

All the rumors were true: the iPhone will be available through Verizon Wireless.

At a New York press conference Tuesday morning (Jan. 11), Verizon announced that the Apple iPhone 4 will be available on the Verizon network in early February. According to chief operating officer Lowell McAdam, the phone will be virtually the same model that has been available through AT&T Mobility — meaning that the iPhone will use Verizon Wireless'  CDMA 3G phone network and not be configured for the new, heavily promoted, state-of-the-art 4G LTE network.

The announcement ended days of speculation about the company's announcement.

According to the Verizon Wireless website, delivery will begin on Feb. 10. Existing Verizon Wireless subscribers can order the phone beginning Feb. 3, on a first-come, first served basis. A 16GB model will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract; the 32GB model will be priced at $299.99.  No pricing was announced for the phone and data service plans, although an unlimited data plan had been rumored.

Three things separate the Verizon phone from its AT&T counterpart. 

  • The Verizon phone will feature a WiFi hotspot, meaning that up to five devices can use your phone as a wireless hotspot to get on the network.  If your phone has this feature, five other devices will “see” your Verizon phone and link to it for Internet access. No pricing was announced for this optional feature, but Verizon Wireless smartphone users currently pay $20 per month for 2 gigabytes of data.
  • Two versions, one black and one white, will be available, at least according to CNET, which live-blogged the press conference on the Internet.  Apple apparently held off releasing this much-rumored feature until the Verizon version was launched.
  • Lastly, the Verizon version has a reworked antenna placement. Apple received scathing crtiticism of the AT&T model because of the so-called “grip of death”: an antenna located near the bottom of the phone, which some said could block phone reception when covered.

At the press conference, McAdam noted that the testing process for incorporating the iPhone onto the Verizon Wireless network had taken two years. Verizon has been notoriously slow in rolling out new phones, although the company’s announcement of 10 new devices to be available by May for its 4G LTE network may change that perception.

He also noted that the agreement with Apple is non-exclusive, meaning that it’s quite possible that other U.S. carriers could offer the phone at some future date.

While there’s little doubt that the iPhone 4 should sell well through Verizon Wireless, Apple’s overall product-update philosophy might cause some buyers to be cautious. The iPhone 4 was introduced last year in June. Rumors are already starting about new features that could be available on the iPhone 5, which would almost certainly be running on the 4G LTE network.

Will there be an iPhone 5 announced in 2011?  With the competition for cell phone supremacy having become essentially a two-way race — Apple vs. the Google Android operating system — neither company can afford to fall behind in the race for new features. With a slate of powerful Android 4G-network phones becoming available this spring from multiple carriers, Apple may find it difficult for its cutting-edge iPhone 4 to remain stuck on the slower 3G network, no matter how polished and powerful its innovative operating system may be.

Here’s the joint press release from both companies on today’s announcement.

(This story has been updated to correct the description of Verizon's network.)


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