NEW YORK--The waiting is over.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will launch a CDMA-capable iPhone 4 from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), ending years of rumor, speculation and scuttlebutt about the companies' relationship as well as breaking AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) exclusive hold on the iconic device.
At a packed media event held here at the Lincoln Center, Verizon Communications President and COO Lowell McAdam unveiled the long-awaited partnership with Apple. Verizon will allow existing customers to pre-order the device Feb. 3; the device will be available Feb. 10 for all other subscribers. Like the iPhone 4 at AT&T, Verizon will sell the 16 GB iPhone 4 for $199.99 with a two-year contract and the 32 GB version for $299.99.
The Verizon iPhone will be the same as the GSM version, but will feature Verizon's mobile hotspot service, which allows subscribers to broadcast a WiFi network to up to five other devices and connect to them to the Internet via Verizon's network. The device will be available online and in Apple and Verizon stores at launch; retail distribution will expand after that in the following weeks.
Apple COO Tim Cook said the deal with Verizon is a multi-year deal but non-exclusive, which could open the iPhone to Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and other CDMA carriers.
"We don't comment on future plans for devices, but Sprint has a great 3G and 4G device lineup right now," wrote Sprint spokeswoman Michelle Leff Mermelstein in response to questions from FierceWireless. "Devices like the HTC EVO 4G and Samsung Epic 4G are compared very favorably to the iPhone. We can't share details, but we're also excited about the products to come in 2011."
Verizon declined to discuss what its pricing plans for the iPhone will be, but Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said the company will "have a very strong offer to attract customers."
McAdam said Verizon and Apple have been holding discussions over the CDMA iPhone for the past two years, and that they have conducted a year of extensive testing to ensure that the performance of the network would be up to Verizon's standards. Cook, representing Apple at the event, said "this is just the beginning of a great relationship between Apple and Verizon." Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not make an appearance at the event.
Some observers had been expecting Verizon to unveil an LTE iPhone. Verizon launched LTE service in December in 39 markets covering 110 million POPs. Verizon plans to add 140 additional markets this year. Cook said there were two main reasons Apple built the phone for Verizon's CDMA network. "The first-generation LTE chipsets force some design compromises, some of which we would not make," he said. "And secondly, and most importantly, Verizon customers have told us they want the iPhone now."
Mead said iPhone customers will not be able to perform simultaneous voice and data sessions, a standard situation with CDMA phones. Cook said that "people place emphasis on different things," but that Verizon customers have expressed their excitement about the iPhone and that "people are willing to make those trade offs." AT&T iPhone users can conduct voice and data sessions at the same time, due to the nature of AT&T's GSM network.
AT&T has been preparing to lose its exclusive hold on the iPhone. Click here for details.
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