Apple iPad Event Leaves Verizon iPhone Rumors Adrift

The Apple iPad's introduction wasn't coupled with the end of AT&T's iPhone contract - or word of an upcoming Verizon iPhone. This leaves many industry watchers wondering when Verizon will have its day.

Apple's Jan. 27 introduction of the iPad - a 1.5-pound tablet with a 9.7-inch display that was the impetus of months of conjecture, rumors and excitement - wasn't paired, after all, with a major AT&T announcement, which had also been expected by the rumor mills.
AT&T's status as the exclusive U.S. provider of the iPhone is expected to end this year, and with the end-date unknown, tech site Hot Hardware, quoting an "inside source," spread the idea that the iPad's debut date was likely to coincide with an adios to AT&T's special status.
However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and his colleagues, kept yesterday's spotlight on the iPad.
"We think Apple was wise not to launch a Verizon iPhone because it would have distracted attention away from the new iPad and at AT&T," Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK.
"Apple has already signed multiple iPhone carrier agreements in other major countries, such as the U.K. and France, so it feels like just a matter of time before one or more additional operators in the U.S. get their hands on the device," Mawston continued. "Having said that, AT&T was Apple's first launch partner and it gave the iPhone its first big break in 2007, so perhaps Apple may stay more loyal to AT&T than some expect."
Analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research, believes that when the end of the contract arrives, Apple and AT&T will make the announcement together.
"Verizon has made no secret of its interest in selling the iPhone, even as it has jabbed at the iPhone with its -iDon't' commercials promoting the Droid," said Hyers, referring to the Motorola Droid smartphone that runs Android. "Verizon is a potentially very attractive network partner for Apple due to its large base of customers and its robust wireless data network that is currently being enhanced by the build-out of LTE."
Hyers added that Verizon's customers, 15 percent of whom currently use smartphones, represent an untapped market that Apple would love to reach.
"It is just a matter of time before the AT&T-Apple exclusive iPhone arrangement ends," Hyers continued, saying that while only speculation, this summer is a strong possibility. "That timing would coincide with the anniversary of the original iPhone going on sale in 2007."
Analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies, hypothesized that the slow arrival of a Verizon iPhone could be as simple, or as silly, as a personality conflict.
"If Steve Jobs has a problem with the head of Verizon, that could be enough," said Kay. "If Jobs tells his troops 'they just don't get it,' that could be enough for them not to -deserve' Apple's hardware. That could kill a deal for possibly years."
Kay further clarified, "There's no structural reason why Apple wouldn't ultimately want to expand its carrier partnerships, but there may be issues we don't see, blocking that from coming to fruition."