Verizon might get an iPhone this January? It's about time. Or is it too late? New reports show that Android is eating the iPhone's lunch. And by clinging to AT&T, Apple is effectively serving that lunch on a shiny silver platter.
For a decade, Apple played Ice Man in a calculated dogfight of product design and marketing. It rarely made a misstep, and its successes were legendary as a result. This year, Apple has not shown itself to be so level-headed.
You could cite Antennagate or the missing white iPhone as evidence Apple is losing its cool, but these are mishaps, destined to follow previous iPhonapocalypses and Applegeddons into the void of the forgotten past. No, the biggest reason is that it miscalculated how much a prolonged exclusivity with AT&T would cost. The deal has been lucrative - God knows AT&T pays well for the privilege - but the downside has been that Apple has let a reasonable iPhone copy become the No. 1 selling smart phone platform in America.
It let this happen, by simultaneously creating a burning desire for an app-driven touch-screen smart phone, and then denying it to two-thirds of the American populace. That might be an old rant, but the detrimental result of this decision - or rather, the detrimental result of sustaining the decision for so long - are only now becoming apparent.
Look at Android's momentum. Just last week, NPD said that Android phones accounted for a third of all smart phones purchased in the U.S. , with RIM's BlackBerry at 28 percent and the iPhone at 22 percent. Apple launched iPhone a year earlier than Android, with more immediate critical and consumer success. In fact, the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, wasn't even taken seriously as an iPhone competitor. It wasn't until more than two years after the iPhone's AT&T exclusive deal had begun, that it was time to stop waiting for a call from Cupertino, and instead release an iPhone competitor that could fight - and win.
Along comes Motorola's original Droid, launched in the fall of 2009 by Verizon Wireless as the anti-iPhone.
Let's not forget that Verizon has advertising dollars to burn - they would have gladly burned them on an iPhone, but that was not to be. The campaign slogan was "iDon't, Droid Does." But just like the Biblical anti-Christ, the anti-Jesus-phone bears a striking resemblance to its nemesis. People bought the Droid not because of its hardware keyboard or its LED camera flash; they bought it because they could get apps and do GPS navigation and check e-mail and Twitter and all that iPhone stuff ... but on Verizon.
Verizon has spent years strictly controlling a fairly nondescript line of phones, and charging generally the highest prices in the business. The result is consistently high customer satisfaction rating and the perception - one backed with some reasonable evidence - that it has the largest and most reliable digital network. (I know from testing that AT&T has the fastest, but its 3G footprint really is much smaller than Verizon's.) Now that Verizon's phones offer the same functionality as an iPhone, it's looking a lot prettier.