Verizon Wireless Users Hunt for Apple iPhone Clues
Most tech-watchers call it a matter of "when" not "if" -- but uncertainty over the release date has been positively maddening, though wholly consistent with Apple's secretive practices.
Over the last few months, a dribble of clues has pointed to the possibility that iPhone may become available on Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture of Verizon (VZ) and Vodaphone (VOD) -- as early as this summer.
The latest rumor to add fuel to the fire came in a report Tuesday by CrunchGear that a brand consultancy called Landor Associates is working on an advertising campaign for Verizon Wireless involving the expected iPhone 4G launch this summer.
If Verizon did begin offering the iPhone, that would end AT&T's (T) three-year exclusive on the hot device.
"Verizon Wireless has been a client of ours for many years, and we have a great relationship. But we would never discuss ongoing projects involving any of our clients that haven't been made public," Mindy Romero, director of public relations at Landor Associates, told DailyFinance.
The Landor report comes just over a month after Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said the iPhone will come to Verizon "eventually" -- the most direct comment from Verizon on the iPhone to date. In late March, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on two new iPhone models for release this summer, including one that could be compatible with Verizon Wireless's CDMA network.
Apple Dismisses Android's Gains
Many Verizon Wireless customers have simply grown tired of waiting for the iPhone to become available on their network, one possible reason why so many Verizon customers have flocked to smartphones powered by Google's (GOOG) Android operating system. On Monday, research firm NPD Group reported that the Android platform had surpassed the iPhone to nab the number two spot with 28% of the market, after Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry, which has 36% of the market.
Apple brushed aside the NPD survey, calling it "a very limited report" that doesn't take iPhone users worldwide into account. "We had a record quarter with iPhone sales growing by 131%, and with our new iPhone OS 4.0 software coming this summer, we see no signs of the competition catching up anytime soon," an Apple spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, confusion reigned over whether AT&T's reported five-year exclusive deal with Apple to carry the iPhone -- which was apparently signed in 2007 -- had been modified to allow new carriers to offer the iPhone.
"I Would Definitely Consider It"
Outside the Verizon Wireless store on Broadway, in New York's SoHo neighborhood, Lauren Brown, a writer who lives in the East Village, says she'd be interested if Verizon began offering the iPhone.
"I would definitely consider it," Brown says. "I've already switched from PC to Mac." Although Brown is happy with her Verizon Wireless BlackBerry smartphone, she admits that "there are a few 'apps' that I'm jealous of," referring to the 200,000 software applications now available for the iPhone.
Despite the fact that many of her friends have iPhones, Brown has thus far resisted getting one. The reason? "I hate AT&T," she says, mentioning the ubiquitous service issues that have plagued the provider, which has struggled to accommodate the massive data load introduced by millions of iPhone users.
Other cell-phone shoppers echoed that dim view of AT&T. "I would be very hesitant to go with AT&T," says a woman who identifies herself as Suzanne H. of Manhattan's Upper West Side. "And I know a lot of people feel that way." She was previously a Verizon customer, before signing up with Virgin Mobile, which last year was acquired by Sprint.
If Verizon began offering the iPhone, "It would make me think about switching back to Verizon," she says.
Some Say iWon't
But despite the iPhone's popularity, some users are immune to its charms. John Dohrmann, a writer who lives in New York's Chinatown neighborhood, says he loves his Verizon Wireless BlackBerry and simply isn't interested in the iPhone.
"I'm very happy with my BlackBerry," Dohrmann says, adding, "I'm not a Mac guy."