Tech pundits and analysts have been waiting for Verizon to sell the iPhone since the device was first unveiled back in 2007. Now that that day is finally here, they can now turn their attention to what it really means.
What does it mean for Verizon? What does it mean for the rival Android smartphone platform and developers? What does it mean for Apple? And what does it mean for AT&T?
To be sure, this debate has only just begun, with the bulk of the speculation focused for now on AT&T and Apple.
Research group iSuppli predicts iPhone sales will increase 25% this year overall, with Verizon selling 12.1 million units. Shipments will increase to 16.5 million next year and to 20.3 million in 2013. And it predicts Verizon will offer a new iPhone in 2012 that's compatible with its upgraded LTE network.
For Apple, more good news. In addition to all the U.S. sales expected through Verizon, analysts expect Apple to start selling the device to operators in other countries using the same CDMA technology. And there's still the expectation a new iPhone will come out this summer, further adding to the sales potential.
While the news is nothing but positive for both Apple and Verizon, it's not clear how Android will fare. Google's smartphone platform surged late last year to become the fastest-growing smartphone operating system in the world. Apple's embrace of Verizon was a direct response to that threat. AT&T sells a wide range of smartphones other than the iPhone, including several Android models, but Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimates 80% of its smartphone sales are iPhones.
That is not likely to be repeated on Verizon's network. The company at CES announced four new smartphones, all compatible with its LTE broadband network (which the iPhone can't access), and has enjoyed brisk Droid sales. Munster estimates Verizon will sell 9 million iPhones this year, which would represent 36% of its total smartphone sales for the year.
But will Android devices on Verizon suffer with the expected ad blitz Verzion will launch in support of the iPhone? Verizon single-handedly made the Droid successful, and its maker-Motorola-may be rightly concerned that its biggest loudspeaker is about to get seriously distracted.
App developers, by and large, are pleased. To them, the iPhone on Verizon just means more potential customers.
"With Verizon's 90 million plus subscribers, if even a small percentage purchase iPhones, it could potentially double the amount of devices in the marketplace," wrote Bart Decrem, VP and General Manager of Tap Tap Revenge developer Disney Mobile in an e-mail. "We've seen our business multiply in size over the past twelve months (in terms of overall downloads), so we can only imagine the growth opportunity for developers and publishers once the iPhone becomes available for Verizon subscribers. It's a very exciting time to be in the apps business."
For AT&T, the news isn't great. Although about 10-20% of Verizon's existing customer base are believed to have held off buying a smartphone until the iPhone was available, surveys indicate that up to 25% of AT&T's iPhone users may jump ship to Verizon.
Meanwhile AT&T had only this to say about the move: "For iPhone users who want the fastest speeds, the ability to talk and use apps at the same time, and unsurpassed global coverage, the only choice is AT&T."
Meanwhile, reactions to today's news just keep pouring in from around the Web: