I know. We, the media, have been speculating, hyping, and predicting the end of exclusivity for AT&T, and the launch of the Apple iPhone on rival wireless networks for...well, pretty much since the iPhone originally launched. But, all signs now suggest that it is imminent, and Verizon is expected to officially announce the iPhone at a media event on Tuesday. So--assuming it is true this time--should you care?
Currently with AT&T
If you are currently an AT&T subscriber, there are a few possible benefits to a Verizon iPhone. First, a Verizon iPhone could yield a mass exodus of subscribers switching from AT&T to Verizon service. It is possible that some of the network congestion and other service issues could be reduced or resolved if the load on the network decreases as a result. The other benefit--especially if you don't even want an iPhone--is that AT&T seems to be dramatically expanding its smartphone inventory, providing better alternatives with Android and Windows Phone 7 options.
Currently with Verizon
Current Verizon subscribers will now have access to the iPhone. Enough said. It is possible that Android smartphone sales could take a hit--as users who really wanted an iPhone, but didn't want to switch to AT&T so they settled on the next best thing are now able to choose the iPhone instead. It is also possible that the Verizon network could experience some of the congestion and issues that have plagued AT&T as iPhone usage spikes network demand.
Currently with Sprint or T-Mobile
Sprint and T-Mobile don't appear to be getting the iPhone any time soon--at least not natively. That said, the GSM iPhone used on the AT&T network can be jailbroken and unlocked to work with the T-Mobile network, and the CDMA Verizon iPhone could ostensibly be unlocked to work on the Sprint network. Neither are great solutions, and I don't personally recommend jailbreaking the iPhone, but at least with a GSM and CDMA version of the Apple smartphone available, the option exists. Or, you can join the iPhone exodus and defect from Sprint or T-Mobile to jump over to Verizon.
Currently an iPhone User
It depends. First, if you are an iPhone user who loves the smartphone, but you are frustrated with AT&T network issues and customer service, you now have an alternative provider to choose. However, because AT&T and Verizon networks are built on different technologies, the AT&T iPhone will not work on the Verizon network (and vice versa), so switching providers will require getting a new iPhone.
There are reports that Verizon will offer an unlimited data plan. AT&T used to have an unlimited data plan, but yanked it in favor of a tiered, nickel-and-diming approach last year. Unlimited data might be a compelling reason to abandon AT&T and get a Verizon iPhone.
If you are an iPhone user who would rather not switch to Verizon, it is possible that an exodus from AT&T to Verizon might lighten the network load and improve service overall as mentioned above.
Only time will tell.