Verizon iPhone a reality check for Android and AT&T

After years of unsupported rumors and speculation over the end of iPhone exclusivity and the launch of the Apple smartphone on Verizon, it seems that the end is finally near. If the iPhone comes to Verizon in early 2011 -- as is widely predicted -- it will be a test for both AT&T and Android.

There is no denying that Android is not only a capable mobile platform, but a dominant mobile platform. Surveys, sales data, and other indicators all point to an Android OS that is kicking ass and taking names -- consistently gaining ground on both BlackBerry and iPhone.

The Verizon iPhone may soon be a reality, which could be really good or really bad for Android and AT&T.Verizon is the largest wireless provider in the United States based on total subscribers, and it is the primary champion of the Android cause. It has poured considerable marketing dollars into establishing not just Android as a platform, but Droid as the branded Verizon line of Android smartphones. Verizon has made its mark as the anti-AT&T, with Android smartphones as the anti-iPhone.

At the end of the day, though, Verizon is a business -- not an Android fan club -- and it can't ignore the revenue potential of finally getting the iPhone. Surveys suggest that a significant percentage of customers from rival wireless providers would willingly switch to Verizon if and when it gets the iPhone. The dirty secret is that a fair number of current Verizon customers would also eagerly embrace the iPhone, which could impact Android's status at Verizon.

Regardless of the outcome, the head to head battle between top of the line Android smartphones and the Apple iPhone is long overdue. Surveys and statistics can be misleading, but pitting the iPhone against Android smartphones like the Droid X on a network that isn't AT&T will be the first real-world demonstration of how the mobile platforms fare when compared on a level playing field.

A Verizon iPhone also has implications for AT&T. Being able to compare the performance of the iPhone on the Verizon network against the performance on the AT&T network will either validate news like the recent Consumer Reports survey that ranked AT&T as the worst among United States wireless providers, or the iPhone will also cripple the Verizon network and vindicate AT&T.

Reports that Android smartphones consume significantly more data than iPhones doesn't bode well for AT&T because they imply that Verizon is already dealing with higher data demand and handling it much more smoothly than AT&T. Adding a Verizon iPhone to the mix, though, is guaranteed to push the envelope and test just how much the Verizon wireless network can handle.

A Verizon iPhone will be a reality check and a challenging test. For either Android or AT&T, the Verizon iPhone could be a damaging testament in favor of the competition, or a vindication and proof that they can hold their own against the competition.

Bring on the Verizon iPhone, and let's see where things stand when the dust settles.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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