Will Verizon Get The iPhone? A Former Insider’s Prediction

by Chris Silver Smith

So, I’ve been watching the rumors wax and wane over whether Verizon and Apple will ultimately come to a deal allowing Verizon to offer the iPhone to its wireless customers. Today is a great example of how the rumor mill is gnashing back and forth on the question. Engadget just dug up news stories and legal filings which appear to prove that Apple’s original deal with AT&T is exclusive. Greg Sterling cogently rehashes this, wondering if that deal is still valid or not — and sums up stating that if it is, Apple is screwed. However, CrunchGear is reporting on how one of Verizon’s branding/ad agencies (Landor Associates) is working upon an ad campaign for a Verizon iPhone. So, how can anyone hash the truth out of the massive rumor machinery that’s making bucks off of all of us poor schmucks who keep clicking in droves to read the next unsubstantiated claims of a VeriPhone?!?

Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of Search Product & User Experience, demos her iPhone at SES Conference.

Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of Search Product & User Experience, demos her iPhone at SES Conference.

The whole question being bandied back and forth is much more important to me than the usual tech industry story-du-jour. You see, I own a reeeeallly old Windows Treo on Verizon service, and I’ve been holding on by my fingernails for a couple of years now, waiting with baited breath to get an iPhone on Verizon’s network. Before all this recent kerfluffle broke out in Sili Valley, I had decided that this July I would be getting a new phone, regardless of what these companies will do.

I must be channeling some of the consumer zeitgeist out there, since I refuse to budge off of the Verizon network, but I really would like the iPhone features. So, if the rumored announcement of a Verizon/Apple deal manifests itself near the end of June, I’ll be getting the Verizon iPhone. But, if not, I’ll be getting a Verizon Android phone.

As a former Verizon employee, I enjoyed using one of my perks by getting an employee discount on my Treo. I was with the company long enough to have a good feel for how they do business, and also know some of the company culture behind major business deals. While working at Superpages, I found working with the Verizon Wireless division very challenging — they’re very, very controlling about what apps are approved for their store, and even companies like us within the Verizon umbrella had difficulting getting our apps approved. Considering Apple’s similarly controlling efforts at building and protecting a walled garden, it wasn’t surprising that these two companies didn’t initially make a partnership deal. Verizon’s not accostomed to bending nor relenquishing their bigger player in the room position, and Apple wasn’t about to bend when they knew their product was so far advanced compared to others in the marketplace at the time.

I also knew from personal experience that Verizon’s longtime marketing spiel about having the superior network service was not merely bluff. I chuckled a lot when the ad campaigns came out this year with the little colored coverage maps hovering over advertising characters’ heads, showing Verizon’s coverage to be superior. It’s VERY telling that even though AT&T took Verizon to court over these ads, the judge ruled in Verizon’s favor and the ads just continue running. Apparently the court found that Verizon’s claims were valid!

As a developer, I’d like to tinker with building phone apps again, just as I did while working for Verizon. I’m attracted to the iPhone’s audience, but I’m also non-plused with their controlling behavior. There’s no excuse for them to not offer a SDK on Windows platform — the development platform should be agnostic. In this sense, I’d actually prefer to do development on an Android, since I’d have to buy a whole new Apple computer just to do development for iPhone.

But, which phone will I end up buying this year? What’s the actual truth behind all these frantic rumors?

I spoke to a close friend of mine who’s a top engineer in Apple, but he/she didn’t release any certain answers to me, other than to very vaguely hint that the effort to develop an iPhone for Verizon’s network would be highly challenging from a technical perspective. Essentially, they were hinting that it was unlikely to the point of being a no-go. (My friend obviously honors Apple’s strict policies on not releasing confidential info to anyone, particularly to bloggers like me!)

Knowing the players involved, here’s my take on it: I think it’s just narrowly possible we might hear of a Verizon iPhone (a “VeriPhone”, if you will) deal here in June. The monetary incentives are just too great to ignore. The analysts show that there are so many consumers like me who would buy an iPhone if Verizon offered service on it, that I think this will finally motivate Apple to make a deal. As for the five-year contract with AT&T, either Apple might pay up for advanced severance of that contract, or else that contract may’ve been voided when iPhone sales in New York were halted due to insufficient service — I’m quite sure that contract would’ve had provisions that would kick in if AT&T didn’t meet service level agreement requirements (“SLAs”).

So, I’m holding out for the VeriPhone in June, with fingers crossed! But, if I’m wrong, I have the backup plan: Android.


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4 Responses to “Will Verizon Get The iPhone? A Former Insider’s Prediction”

  1. Gluon Spring says:

    Apple isn’t a small company any more. They have enough CASH ON HAND to hire all of the CDMA engineers on Earth. So I seriously doubt that technical issues play into this.

    Anyway, since Apple has decided to embrace evil, why support them? You give good reasons not to yourself. They are too controlling and they force you to use their products at every turn. And have you been an Apple customer before? They show little respect for their customers (charging very premium prices for everything, dropping support for even recent models of their products, constantly changing proprietary connectors, monitors that don’t work with year old MacBooks, sealed in batteries, restrictive DRM, etc.). And if Apple shows a lack of respect for their customers, they treat developers with something bordering on contempt.

    Sure, the iPhone is the best of class for now, but that won’t last. Already some HTC devices are close. I think the Android model of having widgets that display information all of the time is fundamentally better, in the long run, than Apple’s model of making you open up an App to, say, see the weather forecast, stock ticker, headlines, or your friend’s tweets. Android has a lot of catching up to do in terms of apps and polish, but with Android sales passing iPhone sales, developers are sure to take notice.

    As a developer, you should also consider that the gold rush days for iPhone apps is over. The App store is basically saturated. Your app will be as lost on the iTunes app store as a random blog on the internet. There’s no fast money left to be made there. Android, on the other hand, is still hurting for good apps in a range of categories, so I think the gold rush days for Android are still open.

  2. Silver says:

    You’re very right that difficulty of porting iPhone to CDMA isn’t really a barrier to Apple.

    You make some really good points. However, I want an iPhone for multiple reasons. There’s a large, established consumer base. Many of my clients are familiar with it, and it still has some buzz associated that they would like my help with (so, increasing my familiarity with it is somewhat necessary for my career work). And, there’s possibility that popularity with iPhone/iPod, and iPad may translate to increasing personal computer sales — they could shift more users over to their systems which would mean I’d need to renew my familiarity of Apple products like I had years ago.

    Your points about Android advantages from a developer perspective are very good, too — if it was merely based on ease of development, I’d choose the Android in a heartbeat!

  3. Olof says:

    So when will it happen? You can publisize your prediction at http://whenwill.org/verizon_get_the_iphone

  4. […] my prediction that the iPhone was coming to Verizon has finally panned out as the official Verizon Wireless […]