Verizon chief operating officer Lowell McAdam announced today that a version of the iPhone 4 compatible with its network would be available for pre-order to existing customers beginning February 3, with general availability February 10. The culmination of more than two years of rumors came as almost an anticlimax, as virtually every media outlet was reporting the Verizon iPhone as fact before it was announced. “If the press writes about something long enough and hard enough, eventually it comes true,” McAdam said, acknowledging the long wait for a second carrier in the United States. Apple COO Tim Cook, who joined McAdam on stage at New York’s Lincoln Center, hailed the step, saying Apple was “incredibly pleased to give Verizon’s customers the choice we’ve been waiting for.”
Perhaps most strikingly, Verizon will let customers tether up to 5 devices to their iPhones using their 3G Mobile Hotspot app which will be pre-installed. Verizon says they will charge $199 for a 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB, with a 2-year contract. They did, however, decline to answer questions about the cost of the data plans, saying that “pricing will be announced at a later date.” This comes after days of speculation that Verizon would offer the same unlimited data plan they give to other smartphone customers. And the question of whether the iPhone 4 on Verizon would support simultaneous voice and data was answered by Dan Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, who said it was “the same as other CDMA devices.” In other words, it won’t.
Also unanswered is whether the new phone also comes with an updated antenna assembly. This is a new model of iPhone 4, as changes to the device’s internals were necessitated by the switch to a different network protocol. However, take a closer look at the photo above: see that black line on the upper-left-hand corner? Yeah. It’s surprising that they would not brag about a Death Grip-free iPhone if they had one, though, so it may just be a design change forced by the CDMA radio. Verizon did repeatedly emphasize how prepared their network is for what is expected to be an onslaught of data-hungry iPhones. Dan Mead said that the carrier had been drive-testing with thousands of iPhones and “could not be more pleased” with the performance.
McAdam was also mum about a CDMA version of the iPad, which was a longshot possibility for today’s announcement. Also missing in action was any timeline for an LTE version of the iPhone, even though Verizon will complete rolling out its nationwide 4G network this year, with AT&T to follow next year. This does follow the generally conservative pattern Apple has historically shown: AT&T’s 3G network was largely in place when the original iPhone was announced, but it only supported the slower EDGE standard until the iPhone 3G was released in 2008.
Industry analysts generally predict sales of between nine million and 12 million Verizon iPhones in 2011, with Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster counting on Verizon to boost total iPhone sales by 5 percent or more, which would bring Apple an additional $5.9 billion in earnings this year.