The surprise that everyone already knew about has finally been made official: Verizon will be launching the iPhone 4 on its network, beginning next month — Februrary 10 is the official date. The device has been redesigned inside to work on Verizon’s CDMA and EVDO networks — but not its newest LTE services. And that means one key thing: you won’t be able to make a voice call and use data at the same time.
At a press conference in New York today, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) COO Tim Cook joined Lowell McAdam and Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead (pictured) on stage to launch the new service. The “partnership” between Verizon and Apple was apparently years in the planning, with tests for the device beginning as early as 2008. Here are the other main points:
– The negatives of being on a CDMA network. AT&T (NYSE: T) may get slammed for having a congested network in some of the biggest markets in the U.S., but there are drawbacks to Verizon’s network, too. Verizon says it will work in 40 countries worldwide — but this leaves out major swathes of the world, such as Europe, which has services based on the GSM standard.
The other big issue is that on CDMA, you cannot use voice and data at the same time. This will be the case with Verizon’s iPhone, too. “It’s the same experience you get on CDMA devices now,” said Cook. This means, for example, no checking of maps or email when you’re on a voice call — a major curb on the kind of multitasking that people do on smartphones while on the go.
–This phone will not work on all networks: It will only be able to be used on those based on CDMA and EVDO. That means that if you are an AT&T subscriber thinking of migrating, you will need to get a new device. That could end up being a major drag on customer churn. For those iPhone incumbents who do make the move, you can take your apps with you.
– Antennagate. The devices have been re-engineered for a CDMA network. Does that mean they will have different antennae that will be more resilient when it comes to network reception? That answer is still unclear.
– Cook said the deal with Verizon is a a multi-year, non-exclusive partnership, meaning that we may see announcements from Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile to carry the device soon, too.
– In terms of the device itself, this will be pretty much the same iPhone that you are already getting with AT&T (NYSE: T). The one exception is that Verizon will be pre-loading it with a hotspot/MiFi feature that allows a user to connect up to 5 different WiFi-enabled devices through the iPhone, as well as access to some of its content services such as its V Cast Media Manager and VZ Navigator. “Additional usage charges” may apply: meaning it’s not clear if the so-called Personal Hotspot will be part of the deal or an extra item on the bill. No sign of a White iPhone, either.
– Prices will be competitive with AT&T’s: $199 for the 16GB device, $299 for the 32GB device, both with two-year contracts. Data plans themselves have yet to be made public. The phone is being offered from the get-go to both existing and new subscribers.
– Laying the groundwork for what might come longer-term? Verizon and Apple “will not comment on the roadmap” for future devices. Tim Cook of Apple said that the company chose to work on CDMA because “the LTE chipsets forced some design concepts” that Apple was not willing to make.
We may not know any more about what Apple plans to do with LTE, but we think that putting the iPhone on more networks in the U.S. could be setting the stage for speculation about who will get the “iPhone 5″ — or whatever the next generation of the device might be called. As Ross Rubin, analyst with NPD, noted, “‘Where is the LTE iPhone?’ Is the new ‘Where is the Verizon iPhone?”‘”
All of the U.S. network operators have been at each other for ages already about whose network is the best. In that regard, today’s announcement felt more like an opportunity for Verizon to talk about how its network is the best of all.
To that end, much was made of the robustness of Verizon’s network, particularly in the face of what Verizon’s Lowell McAdam believes will be “unprecedented volumes” of iPhones hitting its network. Verizon has “more than enough network capacity” to handle this, he said.
On the other side of the fence, one person pointed out a positive outcome to Verizon getting the iPhone: “I am excited for the iPhone to go to VZ,” writes @iphoneuser on Twitter. “Another option and should make ATT faster when the exodus begins.”