Apple's path to iPhone redemption runs through Verizon

Apple's only line of defense to fend off the Android invasion is to offer the iPhone through Verizon

The Verizon iPhone is coming! The Verizon iPhone is coming! I know this will come as a complete shock, but there are renewed reports (rumors, speculation -- call it what you want) that Verizon will soon offer the Apple iPhone. I don't know if these rumors are any more or less credible than the last 3,726 times we have heard the same thing, but I do know that for Apple to redeem the iPhone as a smartphone platform and be able to assert its dominance, it needs Verizon.

Why? Volume really. Volume and an opportunity to be compared directly to leading smartphone contenders like the Droid X, or Droid 2. Limiting the pool of customers to only AT&T, and not being able to go head to head with the primary iPhone rivals paints the Apple iPhone into a corner.

Recent smartphone stats show that the Android Borg continues to assimilate the market -- overtaking both iPhone and BlackBerry as the most purchased smartphone platform in recent months, and continuing to climb in overall market share. Given the diverse selection of Android smartphones, and the sheer volume of Android availability across all major wireless carriers, the invasion of Android is going to be difficult to stop.

With the exception of the fact that the iPhone is available in either iPhone 3G or iPhone 4 models, there is really only one Apple iPhone and that is not likely to change. We won't see an array of smartphone form factors running the iOS platform. Basically you choose between black, and white -- maybe. Someday. So, really just black.

Given that Apple will not compete against Android in terms of the diversity of smartphone options, it at least needs to give the iPhone the best possible chance of success by offering it through multiple wireless carriers -- particularly Verizon. AT&T only has so many customers, and the ones who want an iPhone most likely already have one at this point. By adding Verizon, Apple could more than double the potential pool of iPhone customers and theoretically double iPhone sales overnight.

While Android loyalists will vehemently deny this, consider the possibility that the success of the Verizon Droid line, and Android smartphones in general, is actually a function of the iPhone void, and more about not liking AT&T than preferring Android over iPhone. While the Android collective is having success against the iPhone, no single Android smartphone is as successful as the iPhone.

Surveys have found that a significant portion of Verizon customers would anxiously embrace the iPhone if it was available. Many who have grown impatient, and jaded by the repeated rumors of an impending iPhone may have just turned to the next best thing -- Droid.

If (or when) Verizon finally offers the iPhone, there are AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers who would willingly defect to get it. Verizon customers will grab it. Some may even switch from Android to iPhone--and basically every Verizon iPhone is both a plus in the Apple column and a minus in the Android column, doubling Apple's potential to widen the market share gap again.

Given the chance to choose directly between iPhone and Android, perhaps many customers will still choose Android and the Droid line will thrive. Maybe Apple will still end up relegated to a niche role in smartphones. But, as long as the iPhone is only available from AT&T it's more a certainty than a possibility, so Apple's only choice to regain its smartphone glory is to bring the iPhone to Verizon.

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Tags Appleconsumer electronicsat&tverizonCell Phonesiphone 4PhonesVerizon Wireless

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Tony Bradley

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