Verizon Won’t Get the iPhone Until Summer 2011: Here’s Why

Verizon Won’t Get the iPhone Until Summer 2011: Here’s Why

SAN FRANCISCO — Hanging out at the big CTIA cell phone convention last week, I ran into an old friend who used to work at Apple and is now a wireless consultant.

He argues that if Verizon is getting the iPhone, it won’t be until summer 2011 at the earliest. There’s two reasons why, he says:

LTE

Verizon has promised to roll out its high-speed 4G LTE data network in 38 major cities by the end of the year, covering more than 110 million Americans.

However, low-power chipsets suitable for smartphones won’t be available until the middle of 2011, says the consultant, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting Apple.

At the moment, LTE chips have a USB-embedded die, making them suitable only for USB dongles or built into laptops and netbooks, which have higher power capabilities.

However, the next-generation of LTE chips will shrink the power envelope, making them suitable for cell handsets. These won’t be available in production quantities until the summer, the consultant says.

He says there’s no way Steve Jobs is going to release an iPhone that is compatible with Verizon’s current 3G network but isn’t compatible with the upcoming LTE network. He’s too forward-looking. Why release a nifty new phone that’s almost immediately obsolete? There’s no way.

And neither will Jobs be happy with the first-generation of battery-sucking LTE chips. He didn’t support 3G when the first iPhone launched in 2007. The first iPhone supported AT&T’s 2.5G EDGE network, not 3G, even though the carrier’s 3G network had wide availability back then. Instead, Jobs is waiting for Verizon roll out the network completely and iron out kinks before launching the iPhone, lest Verizon suffers the same network headaches that have bedevilled AT&T.

The consultant’s reasoning echoes that of Steve Cheney in Techcrunch, who says the iPhone support for LTE won’t happen until 2012. Cheney says Apple is launching a 3G-only iPhone on Verizon in January.

AT&T’s Exclusive Contract

Then there’s AT&T’s exclusive 5-year contract. The consultant argues that AT&T’s exclusive contract expires in July 2011. The way he figures it, Apple signed the contract with AT&T in Thanksgiving 2005, and it went into effect in July 2006 — a year before the iPhone actually launched (June 2007).

Although he doesn’t have insider knowledge, the consultant bases his reasoning on insider knowledge of how Apple structures its deals, and the timeline outlined in Wired’s story about the iPhone’s birth.

  • 9/2005 – Motorola Rokker unveiled
  • 11/2005 Jobs green lights P2 engineering project while contract negotiations continue.
  • 12/06 – Prototype P2 demo to former AT&T CEO Stan Sigman
  • 1/9/07 – iPhone unveiled/announced
  • 6/29/07 – iPhone goes on sale

The consultant notes that Steve Jobs has broken contracts many times, of course, and may bring the Verizon iPhone launch forward. He also suspects that the Wired timeline could be off by a quarter as well.

“I think that rolling out an LTE iPhone before a fully robust countrywide LTE network is in place and tested would duplicate the AT&T problems to the point that Steve and Phil should get allergic reactions,” he said. “That factor alone should gate a premature iPhone LTE release in Q1 next year.”

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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