Verizon Gets The iPhone, What Does It Mean To Everyone Else?

Today has been a long day coming for Verizon and Apple. On January 9, 2007 Apple announced the iPhone and its exclusive availability on AT&T, but even on that day everyone knew that the iPhone would not be only on AT&T forever. Apple and Verizon’s competitors have had over three years to prepare for this day, so besides the obvious, who are the winners and losers after today?

Next to AT&T, Google has by far benefited the most from the exclusivity deal between Apple and AT&T. The deal forced Verizon to seek out an alternative to the iPhone, and the result was that it jumped on board with Android. If it were not for Verizon’s marketing of Android, particularly with the “Droid Does” commercials, I doubt Android would be anywhere near as successful as it is today.

The problem now is that Verizon’s marketing will clearly have to change, no longer pitting Android against the iPhone as it did previously. Consequently, Android is going to lose a significant amount of the marketing that was so effective in getting Android in the minds of general consumers. Sprint or T-Mobile may become more aggressive in pitting Android against the iPhone, but that doesn’t make up for Verizon’s market size. Android is definitely a loser today.

Obviously, AT&T is a loser. No matter how much AT&T wants to claim that its network is faster, or that only with the AT&T iPhone can you talk and be online at the same time, it is going to lose customers due to the ill will it generated during the last three years. A vocal contingent of iPhone users have been very unhappy with AT&T’s service and will be moving to Verizon as fast as the phone is available.

Frankly, AT&T ought to be the best prepared for today because it has known when it was going to happen, perhaps even before Verizon. In recent weeks AT&T has announced a number of new Android phones, including the Motorola Atrix that will be exclusively on AT&T. AT&T will put more money into marketing a broad range of smartphones available for their network, but they have got to address their network reliability issues.

I don’t think Blackberry will be as affected by today’s announcement as Android, though I expect some Blackberry users who have wanted an iPhone but were tied to Verizon will switch. So long as there is no iPhone that has a physical keyboard there will always be people using Blackberry because they can’t live without a physical keyboard.

T-Mobile is also little affected by today’s news. Most people who are going to leave T-Mobile for the iPhone would have gone to AT&T. T-Mobile has been positioning Android as their premier smartphone, and they have already been pitting Android and their data network against the iPhone and AT&T. I am interested in seeing whether T-Mobile will take on the Android marketing cause from Verizon.

Sprint may lose customers to Verizon because of today’s news, but I would again expect that if the iPhone were the primary reason to leave Sprint, those people would have already jumped on to AT&T. Now that a CDMA iPhone is available, I expect the next iPhone obsession to focus on when Sprint will get the iPhone. It was disclosed that Apple’s deal with Verizon is not exclusive, so there would seem to be little to prevent a Sprint iPhone except if Apple decides to limit the number of carriers it wants to partner with.

Apple and Verizon are obvious winners today, but while it might be a bit of a stretch to say this, I think the news for Windows Phone is more positive than negative. What Windows Phone needs right now is marketing, and that may come from AT&T as it promotes it as a differentiator from Verizon. I’ve already seen several AT&T commercials for Windows Phone 7. We also know that Windows Phone will also be available on Sprint and Verizon, and if it comes to Sprint first it may also gain more marketing from them.

In the final analysis, I am most interested in seeing what impact the Verizon iPhone will have on Android. Up to this point I don’t think iPhone and Android have really gone head to head because of all of the other variables at play. If you agree that Verizon has the best voice and data network in the U.S., the choice really does come down to which smartphone a person prefers, so I think we’ll learn whether Android has truly become a worthy competitor to the iPhone.