Verizon Wireless announced that a CDMA version of Apple's iPhone 4 would be coming to their network on February 10, 2011. The pricing for a new iPhone on contract will be tha same as on AT&T ($200 for the 16GB version, $300 for the 32GB version). Clearly this announcement is huge for Verizon and their position in the smartphone market, but today's announcement is a big deal to all of the big 4 nation wireless providers (namely, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile).
First let's talk about Sprint. Sprint was the first to launch of 4G (WiMAX) network earlier this year with the introduction of the HTC EVO 4G. Since then they have launched two more 4G equipped phones, the Samsung Epic 4G, and the mid-range HTC EVO Shift 4G. However with big launched from the other three wireless providers of 4G service Sprint's unique edge in the smartphone market is waning. For much of the past year the EVO flagship would have been enough to draw customers to the carrier, with its large 4.3 inch display, 4G connectivity, and exception HTC Sense UI skin. However both AT&T and Verizon just announced phones very similar (though improved) in the form of the HTC Thunderbolt (Verizon) and the HTC Inspire 4G (AT&T). They have specs almost identical with the EVO, with the addition of HTC's updated sense UI and a 256MB bump in RAM size. With no iPhone, or even windows 7 phones in Sprint's immediate future, the one thing it still has going for it is perhaps the best android smartphone with a physical keyboard, in the Samsung Epic 4G. Unless Sprint can pull a rabbit out of it's hat in the next couple months, things are not looking great for them.
T-Mobile is likewise not in an optimal position, although not quite as bad as Sprint. T-Mobile has recently launched its own HSPA+ 4G network and announced plans to upgrade it to 42mbps download speeds later this year. Another bright spot for T-Mobile is they seem to be the network of choice for the pure Google Android experience. They have been the network provider for the G1, Nexus one, and now the new Android 2.3 Gingerbread touting Nexus S. Also announced at CES this past week was the G-Slate, manufactured by LG, that will offer a pure Android 3.0 Honeycomb experience, a version of Android designs specifically for tablets. Another plus for T-Mobile is that they use GSM, allowing for unlocked iPhones to be used on their network. This is an enticing idea because of T-Mobiles cheaper talk and data plans, the cheapest of the big 4. But without any super exciting Android devices announced for the network recently, T-Mobile well still be playing at least 3rd fiddle to AT&T and Verizon.
The story of 2011 will be how things pan out between AT&T and Verizon. Along with carrying the hot selling iPhone 4, both carriers announced high end, Tegra 2 dual core sporting Android phones at CES. Both will soon be rolling out 4G phones in the coming months, with AT&T following T-Mobiles lead with HSPA+, and Verizon launching its LTE network. It has long been said that AT&T has the less reliable network of the two, but after CES it looks like they will have the most enticing and wide ranging lineup of smartphones by the end of this year. AT&T will be selling the Dual Core Motorla Atrix (which has some interesting desktop and laptop docks), the 4.5inch Super AMOLED Plus Samsung Infuse 4G, and the super slim Xperia Arc. However Verizon will also be launching an exciting Dual Core Motorola phone in the Droid Bionic, as part of a full lineup of android LTE phones. Now with the addition of the iPhone 4 to Verizon the fight between these two is tougher than ever.
The stakes are high in this 2011 smartphone battle. Come 2012 either my wife will be joining me on Verizon, or I will be joining her on AT&T. I'm excited to see how it pans out.