Verizon iPad and iPhone: No Map for That–Yet
One of the big surprises to come out of Wednesday’s iPad unveiling was news that the 3G version of the device will, at least initially, only be available with AT&T (T) in the U.S.
That was an announcement few were expecting. In the weeks leading up to the event, it was widely believed that Apple’s (AAPL) tablet device, if it was going to support mobile broadband, would support it on Verizon’s network and that the announcement of that carrier deal would herald the arrival of the oft-pined-for Verizon (VZ) iPhone.
Didn’t happen. And now folks are pondering just what this might mean for Apple’s carrier relationships in the U.S. As I’ve noted before, it’s inevitable that the iPhone will cease to be an AT&T exclusive, and this will certainly be true of the tablet as well.
But perhaps not quite as soon as expected. AT&T’s iPad exclusive suggests that Apple’s relationship with the carrier is still quite strong.
You’ll recall that when Apple reported earnings earlier this week, COO Tim Cook leaped to AT&T’s defense when asked about the carrier’s network issues. AT&T’s iPad exclusive would seem to lend further credence to Cook’s remarks that Apple has been happy with the company as a carrier partner and is confident of its plans to vastly improve its network.
As Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi observed in a note to clients Thursday, “We note that Apple’s tone towards AT&T has shifted since last June when Apple took some verbal swipes at [the carrier] during its WWDC presentation; COO Tim Cook was complimentary of AT&T on Apple’s recent earnings call, and appeared less committed about having multiple carriers in every country. We worry that this more amicable stance towards AT&T and the lack of a CDMA iPad could suggest that a deal with Verizon on the iPhone is still being negotiated and potentially is further away than some investors might hope.”
Perhaps. Though it may only be as far away as completion of Verizon’s long-term-evolution 4G network. Why bother building a CDMA iPad and iPhone for Verizon now? Wouldn’t it be easier to wait for the rollout of the far superior LTE network, which reportedly isn’t all that far off?