Verizon Wireless plans to roll out a bumper crop of cutting-edge smart phones this year. The biggest shocker: The hotly anticipated Palm Pre, which debuts June 6 exclusively on the Sprint network, will be available to Verizon subscribers in about six months, according to Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam, who dropped the bombshell during a Thursday webcast with investors.
In addition to the Pre, Verizon will offer phones based on Google's Android operating system later this year, and will sell the BlackBerry Storm 2, the second incarnation of Research in Motion's popular touch screen phone that received tepid to negative critical reviews. Since Verizon is already the sole U.S. carrier of the Storm, it's no surprise it will offer the Storm 2 as well.
The Palm Pre announcement is great news for smart phone fans who crave the Pre, but who'd rather not sign up with Sprint, which ranks last in customer satisfaction among the four major U.S. wireless carriers, according to a recent study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). (To be the fair, the ACSI study, which is conducted annually, did show that Sprint's customer rating is up 12.5 percent over last year.) The same survey ranked Verizon Wireless No. 1 in customer satisfaction.
Obviously, the Verizon announcement is very bad news for Sprint, which will have a much harder time convincing its competitors' customers to defect. Its six-month exclusivity deal for the Palm Pre is surprisingly short, and Sprint may be forced to offer very aggressive pricing plans to attract Pre fans. Then again, Sprint is already losing money, so there may be a limit to its generosity.
Verizon's interest in Android isn't a surprise. As far back as 2007, CEO McAdam said Verizon planned to support Android, and it's a fact that other Google phones will soon join the Android-equipped T-Mobile G1 in the North American market. According to a recent report, at least 18 Android devices are slated to ship by the end of 2009.
Rumors have it that Verizon wants the iPhone too, although that couldn't happen before 2011 at the earliest. (AT&T Wireless's exclusivity deal with Apple expires at the end of 2010.)
Verizon to Apple: Can you hear me now?