It’s Official: Verizon iPhone Coming in February

We’ve heard the rumors for years and have been let down countless times. Many of us dared to hope that this latest round was true while others had long ago sworn off hope that it would ever happen. Today, the rumors will be permanently laid to rest because it has finally happened: AT&T has lost its long-held exclusive grip on the iPhone in the United States.

Verizon Wireless announced today that they will be releasing an iPhone. When will it be available? Is it somehow different that the AT&T version? Find these answers and more after the jump.

When?

It turns out Apple and Verizon have been in secret discussions since 2008 regarding the iPhone. The actual device has been in testing for a full year and you can get your hands on it early next month (February).

On February 3rd, existing Verizon customers will get the opportunity to pre-order the Verizon iPhone 4, everyone else will get the device when it launches on February 10th. The initial prices will be $199 for the 16GB and $299 for the 32GB.

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At long last, the Verizon iPhone

How Is It Different?

Many of the device’s features are identical to those on the AT&T version: FaceTime, Retina display, A4 chip, etc. However, there are a few big differences. Obviously, this will be a CMDA version of the iPhone, speculation says that Verizon’s network can’t handle voice and data simultaneously, so there could be a major limitation in that area.

However, there’s a big upside for Verizon customers: The Verizon iPhone will act as 3G WiFi hotspot for up to 5 devices. This is fantastic news and something that is sure to set it apart until AT&T can duplicate the strategy.

Unfortunately, the phone will not run on Verizon’s LTE network. Verizon’s excuse is mainly that the process has been rushed because of customer demand so they couldn’t go back and redesign everything to run on the new network. You can bet that this will be a major reason for some customers to hold back and wait for the next version of the Verizon iPhone.

Let the Floodgates Open

It’s important to note that Verizon’s agreement with Apple is non-exclusive. Though no other carriers have made an announcement similar to that of Verizon, you can bet that this will represent the beginning of a major shift for the iPhone to other carriers.

Hopefully one day customers of Sprint, T-Mobile and other carriers will enjoy similar access to Apple’s beloved handheld. This transition will definitely be an interesting one to watch as the iPhone was already one of the most popular smartphones in the U.S. despite being tied exclusively to AT&T. Apple’s market of possible customers is about to expand by leaps and bounds, will its market share follow suit or will we mostly see repeat customers in the form of AT&T switchers?

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of which carrier you happen to be on, this is good news for American consumers. History has taught us the benefits of competition over a monopoly. Having multiple carriers compete for your iPhone business will hopefully result in better incentives that take various forms including pricing, features and more.

I’ve personally waited for this for quite some time and will definitely be picking up a Verizon iPhone as soon as humanly possible. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of today’s announcement. Are you excited that the iPhone is finally coming to other carriers in the U.S.? Do you plan on taking any action in response to this announcement? We want to know!