Latest iPhone rumors sound a little fishy

Here’s the latest idea bouncing around the Internet about Apple (AAPL) potentially moving the iPhone to Verizon: it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in roughly two weeks, and it’s going to be 4G.

MacDailyNews has a report citing those illusive “sources familiar” as saying that the Verizon (VZ) iPhone is imminent, and that Apple will announce and launch the phone at the same time only in Verizon stores, “right after Christmas.” The assumption there, because apparently their sources weren’t clear enough, is that the announcement will come straight after the holiday but before the end of the year.

Sorry if this reads as a little incredulous, but you have to admit these rumors sound a little weird. For one, being a story with no sources, MacDailyNews’ report has an awkward amount of unverifiable, vague information. It says a lot of strange things -- like the idea that Apple is not just working on moving to Verizon but poised to do so, but is holding back the announcement basically as a favor to AT&T (T) to allow that company to capitalize on holiday iPhone-buying. That’s the kind of hand-holding and self-foot-shooting that Apple isn’t really known for, and it seems really unlikely that a sad-faced AT&T would ask Apple for the favor of giving it the biggest shopping period of the year. It’s even harder to believe Apple would go for it, given that they could potentially face a mighty increase in holiday sales by springing the phone on two networks.

And, as Time magazine points out in its Techland blog, it’s not like if you buy an AT&T iPhone for the holidays, you’re stuck with it for two years -- retailers, including AT&T, have such things as return policies. AT&T’s is honored for 30 days. That includes the week right after Christmas, plus three-quarters of January. It would make a lot more sense if the phrase “after Christmas” actually wasn’t quite so literally interpreted as “immediately after Christmas.” If it means the early part of 2011, it makes much more sense.

The MacDailyNews story goes on to claim that Verizon is training its managers to deal with the iPhone, that the device has been ready for the carrier switch for a while now, and that the new iPhone will be available for Verizon’s newly launched 4G network.

That’s not necessarily crazy, although it would mean Apple is putting some faith in that new 4G network while the bugs are still being worked out of it. Verizon’s shiny new system does offer faster Internet speeds, approaching the low-tier offers you can get for in-home high-speed Internet, but it has some drawbacks such as sucking a ton of battery power. The source says the 4G network will be a big marketing feature for the iPhone, since it’ll be the only phone on that network so far.

One of the big issues right now with Verizon 4G is that switching a device from one network to the other -- 3G to 4G -- is taking as long as two minutes. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but imagine adding an extra two minutes to your search time when you’re trying to get directions or do a quick and important Google (GOOG) search on an iPhone: people won’t like it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Apple won’t go with 4G for the sake of early adopters, make the phone functional in different ways and just let it run amok. The company always goes for innovation and simplicity, and 4G support wouldn’t necessarily threaten those ideas, but it does seem a little on the risky side for a company that, at least when it comes to carriers for its phone, has been relatively conservative. I don’t know of any other way to describe sticking exclusively with a company for two years whose service is rated as the worst available.

So personally, I wouldn’t expect to see Steve Jobs on a stage before January 1 at the earliest, but even then, don’t be surprised to hear nothing at all official on a Verizon iPhone for the next few months. With all the flak flying around about iPad 2 and a new carrier for iPhone, it would make a lot more sense, and be a lot more in tune with Apple’s style, to do a huge press-grabbing announcement and knock down both new products at the same time. That’s just my speculation, but if Apple does decide to kill both birds in one huge story, it might not be until right before the iPad 2 is rumored to go -- so I’d guess February.[source]


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