It’s official. Apple’s iPhone 4 will be available to Verizon Wireless customers over its 3G network as of February 10, announced Verizon Tuesday.
Pre-orders start February 3 for a 16GB version at $199 and a 32GB model at $299. A mobile hotspot is included to share your data connection (tether) with up to 5 devices. AT&T allows tethering with only 1 device.
The CDMA version of the iPhone will include many of the same features like FaceTime video chat, the Retina Display, 5 megapixel camera, and HD video.
The deal with Verizon is a multi-year, non-exclusive contract with Apple.
The announcement ends AT&T’s exclusive 3 ½ year agreement with Apple and finally gives iPhone customers a choice of carriers. It may even offer improved service for the phone which has an estimated 25 to 27 percent share of the smartphone market (virtually tied with Android phones, depending on which research firm you follow).
When asked why the Verizon iPhone is not 4G ready, Apple’s Tim Cook answered that it “would force design change we wouldn’t make and Verizon customers told us they want the iPhone now,” according to Engadget’s live blog from a Verizon press conference in New York.
Verizon’s version of the iPhone is expected to attract anywhere from 5 to 13 million iPhone customers for the carrier.
Some analysts believe Verizon will sell more iPhones this year than AT&T, which activated 11.1 million iPhones in the first 9 months of last year, reports the AP.
But many subscribers are locked into contracts with AT&T so it may be months before they are ready to switch carriers.
Consequently, about ¾ of Verizon’s iPhone buyers this year will be current subscribers who simply switching phones, estimates UBS. And since Verizon has to subsidize each iPhone, that could cut into its profits in the near term.
The Verizon iPhone will also be “the first true test for Android,” according to Kaufman analyst Shaw Wu.
Part of Android’s key to success has come from Verizon, which pushed Android phones heavily since it didn’t have the iPhone. It remains to be seen if Android phone sales from Motorola and others will trail off now that Verizon will surely promote the iPhone.
Photo of Verizon’s iPhone 4 via Engadget