Will AT&T Mobility lose or keep its exclusive grip on the Apple iPhone? The answer should arrive on Monday at around 1 p.m. EST, when Steve Jobs is scheduled to take the stage at Apple's upcoming developers' conference and--as is expected--unveil the company's next iPhone. That unveiling should confirm whether AT&T's exclusive deal to sell the device will go for a fourth year, or whether Apple will open the device to U.S. carriers beyond AT&T.
Since the iPhone launched in 2007 there has been a seemingly constant stream of rumors and speculation on whether Apple will expand U.S. distribution of the device--as the company has since done in most of its overseas iPhone markets. Industry watchers have become hardened to what seem like daily rumors of the iPhone going to either Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel or another carrier.
AT&T yet again stirred the pot yesterday by replacing its unlimited smartphone data plans with 200 MB and 2 GB caps. Does the move foreshadow a pre-emptive action by the carrier to entice users to cheaper service ahead of another carrier scoring rights to sell the iPhone? Or does it reflect AT&T's comfort with its continued exclusivity, that it can refresh its services plans without worry of competition? Only a handful of Apple and AT&T executives (and perhaps executives from another carrier?) know for sure.
Nonetheless, ahead of Apple's expected unveiling of the next iPhone, now is the time to revisit this year's bevy of iPhone rumors and speculation. To make things simple, we've created two columns of items: those that predict AT&T will lose its iPhone exclusivity and those that predict the carrier will retain its exclusivity.
Is there overwhelming evidence one way or the other? We'll let you decide (to be clear, none of these rumors are a sure bet, which makes all of them equally suspect). And we'll let you know how it turns out.