Hey remember when AT&T's awkward CEO (then Cingular CEO) joined Steve Jobs in 2007 at Macworld with his awesome notecards and stilted announcement of exclusivity for the iPhone? Yeah, that and thousands of dropped calls later should have been a big, red warning to you conspiracy theorists that some day the iPhone would free itself from the big blue clutches of AT&T. Of course it'll happen, it's always been a matter of when. And every site in the tech universe yet again buzzes with the name Verizon this weekend as various tea leaves have been read to suggest January as a date. Maybe. Pencil it in, among the dozens of other rumored days/years/epochs, so you can start queueing up for something that hasn't even been announced.
Except, not really. TechCrunch makes a rather uneducated guess as to a January launch -- except that it'd be months before the usual summer announcement that hovers over WWDC these past few years. That and Apple doesn't attend Macworld any more (insert world's biggest eye roll here). Their guess is based on a big rumored order of CDMA chips -- although commenters point out this could be for a Chinese carrier. Engadget has a more nebulous date of "maybe someday" given the Q2 earnings report from AT&T which vaguely states that they'll still be making money once "these exclusivity arrangements end." I don't know how many exclusive phones AT&T has (all are highly death-grippable, I'm sure), but let's think of at least one runaway hit that could potentially ding their bottom line and dream, shall we?
Personally I'm not betting anything until Verizon rolls out their LTE network quite a bit. iPhone on T-Mobile makes more sense at this point. Why? Currently on Verizon's 3G network you can't have a phone conversation and use data at the same time. No way is Apple going to downgrade the functionality of their phone just for the sake of "more" customers. In case you haven't followed the company for 20 years, here's the deal: they care more about making customers happy than getting more customers. This "secret sauce" that companies like Microsoft, Sony and Dell can't fathom will play out in this cellular phone market as well. Once Verizon provides a better experience than AT&T, we'll certainly see a Verizon iPhone. Unless Verizon insists on the bloaty crapware and big honkin' V they put on all their phones -- that could further delay such a deal.
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.