Verizon Wireless (s vz) will reportedly offer Apple’s iPhone in January of 2011, after AT&T’s (s t) exclusivity deal ends, writes Bloomberg, which cites two unnamed people familiar with the plans. Verizon has so far been unable to offer Apple’s popular smartphone, despite pent-up demand among its 92 million subscribers. But although there have been numerous Verizon iPhone rumors in the past — many we skipped over — this particular one rings true, for two reasons.
AT&T has locked in a lot of users in the most recent iPhone upgrade cycle. AT&T knows when its exclusive iPhone deal ends with Apple (s aapl), even if others don’t. So the carrier will likely plan accordingly for any churn and lost customers that would defect for an iPhone on Verizon’s network after its exclusivity ends. If Verizon is getting the iPhone in 2011, it would make sense for AT&T to lock in as many iPhone 4 customers as possible beforehand. And AT&T was indeed generous in advancing the iPhone 4 eligibility dates for current iPhone 3GS customers — that offer locked new iPhone 4 owners in for an additional two years under a newly raised termination fee.
Apple to offer big upgrades and 4G is a big upgrade. If Verizon gets an iPhone in January, it’s likely to be a 3G device using Verizon’s CDMA network, despite the fact that Verizon is planning to launch LTE service in some markets before the end of this year. I’d expect a Verizon iPhone with EVDO capability in January because Verizon will still need two more years to fully extend LTE to its entire network. And that gives Apple the opportunity to offer an upgraded iPhone with LTE service later in 2011 — an upgrade strategy that Apple has followed in the past by offering a device that has room for improvements in the near future.
Verizon has responded to our request for comment by saying via email, “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.” Readers, what do you think?
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