UPDATE: The answer is now Feb. 10, 2011.
This has been a question for years, practically since the iPhone was announced with AT&T as the official carrier in the U.S. I’m sorry to tell Verizon fans out there, that there’s no iPhone for Verizon in immediate sight.
There are a few reasons that, as of this writing (March 2010), there’s no Verizon iPhone on the horizon.
1. AT&T’s Exclusive Contract – In the U.S., AT&T is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone, and has been since its debut in 2007. Apple and AT&T struck a deal before the iPhone arrived that gave AT&T this exclusive right for a number of years, though the exact number has never been definitely pinned down.
Many believe that the contract expires in 2010, but there’s been no confirmation of that. So, until an announcement about an end to exclusivity, or exact terms of that contract, the iPhone is AT&T-only.
2. The iPad – When the iPad was announced, many observers expected Verizon to provide 3G service to the device and were surprised when AT&T again was the favored partner. While it’s unlikely that providing service to the iPad has a contractual effect on the iPhone, it strengthens the ties between Apple and AT&T, which makes an iPhone for Verizon that much less likely.
3. Hardware/Network Incompatibility – Perhaps the biggest obstacle the to debut of a Verizon iPhone is that the current iPhone hardware isn’t compatible with Verizon’s network. Without getting too technical (I’ll let About’s Guide to Cell Phones dig deep on this for you), it breaks down this way: AT&T uses a cellular network technology called GSM, and so the iPhone has chips that support GSM. Verizon uses a technology called CDMA, and the iPhone doesn’t include chips that support CDMA.
So, while Apple could always make a version of the iPhone with support for CDMA, and thus support for the iPhone on Verizon’s network, we’re not there yet – and it will require some design and manufacturing changes.
When Might There Be a Verizon iPhone?
Despite theses factors weighing against it, if Apple concludes that an iPhone for Verizon is in its best interest, no doubt it will make the necessary changes.
If those changes are going to come soon, it’s likely that we’ll see them in the spring or summer of 2010, when the company is expected to introduce its next-generation iPhone.
Until then, a Verizon iPhone will have to remain in the realm of speculation and desire.