Apple's iPhone to Verizon: A look at the fallout

Should Apple's iPhone head to Verizon Wireless the competitive landscape shifts and there will be multiple ripple effects on rival handset makers.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Should Apple's iPhone head to Verizon Wireless the competitive landscape shifts and there will be multiple ripple effects on rival handset makers.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple plans to make an iPhone that will work with

Verizon's CDMA network. The move would more than double Apple's addressable market for the iPhone. Verizon ended 2009 with 87.5 million retail customers. AT&T ended 2009 with 85.1 million subscribers.

While rumors are swirling about the features that will define the latest iPhone, due this summer, the fallout is almost immediate. From an Art of War perspective, an Apple-Verizon tie-up on the iPhone is brilliant. You freeze rivals, front-run new phones like Windows 7 Phone Series devices and double your addressable market. Here's a quick scorecard of the potential ramifications if Apple's iPhone lands on Verizon Wireless.

Android devices: The impact on Android devices may be almost immediate for anyone with an expiring contract at Verizon Wireless. As noted Monday, I'm in this camp. The potential of an iPhone at Verizon Wireless is enough to make me freeze any plans to switch handsets. I have a BlackBerry Storm, can swap it and have been evaluating everything from the Droid to the Palm Pre Plus to potentially the Nexus One. I've ultimately concluded that I'm going to hang back. Apple's potential move to Verizon solidifies that plan. What's the rush? This line of thinking is likely to become the norm among Verizon Wireless customers, who are sticking with the network. Most Verizon customers I talk to---basically everyone I know on the east coast---all have interest in Android handsets, but would take an iPhone.

Motorola: If momentum slows for Android devices---whether driven by a potential iPhone or not---Motorola may be most affected. It's telling that Verizon Wireless has held pricing on the Droid (even though there are buy one, get one promotions). In addition, Verizon has given Motorola a nice boost with non-stop marketing. Obviously, the Droid is still selling well. For comparison, Palm Pre prices have plunged at Verizon because there's excess inventory. HTC could also be dinged.

Also: iPhone 4G: 25 most-wanted features (photos)

AT&T: Apple iPhone users have complained for years about AT&T's network. If the iPhone goes to Verizon, they'll have a chance to jump. Will these people bolt? My hunch is that there will be an initial line for the exits and then things will stabilize for AT&T. AT&T is portrayed as a one-device carrier, but it has a strong line-up elsewhere.
Research in Motion: RIM will report its financial results on Wednesday and the refrain from Wall Street analysts is almost unanimous: Bullish on the short run and cautious on the long-term picture. RIM needs new products and something to get us wound up about. Meanwhile, RIM is a big Verizon Wireless partner and there's only so much marketing shelf space available (ask Palm about that one). The enterprise will keep RIM a player, but it needs some pizazz desperately.

Palm: Can it get any worse? Palm couldn't compete with the Droid at Verizon and now it faces the iPhone as competition (even if it's fictional for now). Maybe AT&T will be a pal.

Verizon: Executives at the carrier have said for months that the network can handle the iPhone. But we won't really know until the device lands. Verizon Wireless has enjoyed a perfect marketing strategy: Watch AT&T's network struggle with the iPhone, make commercials mocking AT&T and mock the carrier in every keynote speech it can. If Verizon Wireless also struggles with the iPhone, AT&T may have the last laugh.

Sprint: At first, it appears that Sprint is hosed. However, a CDMA version of the iPhone that works on Verizon will also work at Sprint. Add it up and it's possible that Sprint could talk 4G with the iPhone. If the iPhone meets WiMax or LTE it could be quite powerful.

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