The Verizon iPhone Is Coming: Are You Ready?

Finally, after years of rumours and speculation, it looks like Verizon is about to start selling Apple’s iPhone(s aapl). On Saturday, citing people “familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal (s nws) boldly proclaimed “The iPhone is finally coming to Verizon Wireless.” From the WSJ:

The largest U.S. wireless carrier will make the long-awaited announcement at an event Tuesday in New York City… The phone will make its way to Verizon Wireless stores around the end of January.

The move will for the first time let U.S. consumers choose the network that carries their iPhone and perhaps give them additional pricing options that could affect their monthly bills.

The article confirms that the Verizon (s vz) iPhone will feature a radio chip making it compatible with the carrier’s CDMA wireless network. By comparison, AT&T (s t) iPhones work with the (globally ubiquitous) GSM wireless network.

Verizon’s invitation-only “special event” will be held tomorrow, at New York City’s Lincoln Center. According to John Paczkowski of All Things Digital, the event will be headed by Verizon COO Lowell McAdam, and, “barring any unforseen circumstances,” Apple’s very own Steve Jobs.

More details (also from Paczkowski) on Verizon’s shiny new iPhone suggest that we can expect the phone to debut with an unlimited data plan;

Sources close to Verizon tell me the carrier will offer the iPhone with an unlimited data plan (presumably the same $30 unlimited plan it offers for other smartphones)–though they wouldn’t say for how long. That should distinguish it a bit more from the iPhone on AT&T, which requires a capped plan for data service.

For AT&T, the Damage is Already Done

Of course, the question now is how much a Verizon iPhone will impact AT&T’s business. Since the iPhone launched in 2007, AT&T has been the only carrier in the United States to officially offer Apple’s iconic smartphone to customers; but in the last three years, AT&T has been criticized for high prices and shaky service. The carrier has cited iPhone-customers’ insatiable hunger for data as the reason for sometimes-unreliable service and dropped calls, pledging significant upgrades to their network in order to better meet demand.

Even Steve Jobs (sort of) defended AT&T’s difficult position when he spoke at the D8 Conference in June last year, saying;

“They [AT&T] worry about the network, while we worry about the phone. They’re improving, but they do have some issues. Remember that they’re handling way more traffic than all other competitors combined.

Credible people tell me that things get worse before they get better as the carriers switch things around to make improvements. If you believe that, things should get a lot better soon. Should be better by end of summer. We’ll see.”

However, no amount of high-powered Execu-speak could change the fact that, for AT&T, the damage was already done — by Sept. 2010, Credit Suisse reported that nearly a quarter of AT&T iPhone customers would switch to Verizon “if given the chance”.

Mounting a Desperate Defense

AT&T has already put something of a defense strategy into action; last week they reduced the price of the iPhone 3GS from $99 to $49, presumably hoping that pricing alone might convince customers not to choose an iPhone from their competitor. Apple followed suit today, reducing the price to $49 on its own website.

In addition, AT&T’s PR executive Larry Solomon reached out to Business Week‘s Silicon Alley Insider yesterday with a dig at Verizon;

The iPhone is built for speed, but that’s not what you get with a CDMA phone. I’m not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane.

Will you be jumping ship to Verizon? Or are you grandfathered-in to the best deal AT&T can offer? Are you, like me, just relieved that these endless “Verizon iPhone” rumors will finally be put to rest? Are you willing to change carriers now, or will you wait another few months for the iPhone 5? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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