The war between AT&T and Verizon Wireless for iPhone customers has already started -- and there's not even officially a Verizon iPhone yet. Rumors abound, however, that Tuesday will see an announcement at a media event in New York City that will open up the iPhone to a new audience of consumers.
There's speculation that Verizon will bring back the unlimited data plan package for the introduction of the iPhone on its network. And there was a jab from an AT&T spokesperson that Verizon iPhone users should prepare for "life in the slow lane."
"Since there have been many consumers holding out for a Verizon announcement, we believe it is reasonable to expect that both new buyers of the iPhone and upgrades from the iPhone 3GS currently on the AT&T network could move to Verizon," Brian White, a senior analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in a Monday note. "If we assume that Verizon Wireless is able to achieve similar performance to that of AT&T with an average of 3.3 million activations per quarter, this equates to 13.2 million iPhones over the next 12 months."
There are still plenty of assumptions, indeed. On Tuesday, the smartphone-using world will find out if the rumor mill is correct or if Verizon is releasing a new version of the Kin phone, joked Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner.
"All signs would point to this being the right time for the Verizon iPhone," Gartenberg says. "It's unusual, of course, for Verizon to be making a special announcement two days after (the Consumer Electronics Show). What announcement will they make that they couldn't make or didn't want to make lumped in with everything else at CES?"
If Verizon is announcing an iPhone, it could open up Apple to even greater profits. Some customers make their smartphone purchase decisions on the network first and the phone second. And some are disgruntled with AT&T, or simply don't have strong AT&T coverage where they live and work.
"At the end of the day," Gartenberg said, "there will be a surge in demand forward for the iPhone just because of all of the Verizon and wannabe Verizon customers who have been waiting for an iPhone."
There are still far more questions than answers. Will the Verizon iPhone -- if there is a Verizon iPhone -- be a CDMA device or have LTE capabilities? Will Verizon offer rates competitive to AT&T? What does the timing of the announcement mean for future versions of the iPhone on Verizon? Will Verizon be moving on to the summer schedule with other carriers when new phones come out, or will Verizon be consistently behind whatever the GSM version is?
"These are all questions that no doubt we will have the answers to in a short time," Gartenberg said. "One thing that is clear is that this is going to be a very successful product at launch and there is going to be some very strong demand at retail from consumers who want to get this product and have been waiting for years to get this product."