Verizon is holding a big press event on Tuesday and Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski cites unidentified sources who say the carrier will finally announce an agreement with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) to begin selling the iPhone. It’s not clear if Apple CEO Steve Jobs will be there to appear alongside Verizon COO Lowell McAdam. The other big question is whether it will be the iPhone 4, or a new generation of the device to work on Verizon’s 4G network.
Verizon’s announcement has been long-awaited, but it’s not a surprise.
Most analysts had been hearing that a Q1 launch of Verizon’s iPhone was a done deal. Last month, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster offered (via Fortune) a “conservative” estimate that expects Verizon selling 9 million iPhones this year.
An iPhone with Verizon would have a major impact on AT&T (NYSE: T), the sole U.S. carrier of the device up to now. It would cut into AT&T’s sales — Munster projects AT&T iPhone sales of 11 million in 2011 — 4.6 million fewer than it sold in 2010. And it would likely result in a migration of AT&T customers to Verizon. AT&T has had the rights to sell the iPhone in the U.S. since its launch in the middle of 2007.
What’s not clear yet is whether Verizon will launch with the current iPhone 4, or whether it will have a new version of the device that could run on its new LTE “4G” network. But given Apple’s penchant to launch new products on its own turf in California, it’s unlikely that it will be the latter.
Still, starting out with even the current device now will lay the groundwork for a possible introduction of a next-generation device later in the year.
Given how well Android devices have sold at Verizon, it will be interesting to see whether the iPhone will make as much of a splash with consumers. While iPhones have made up roughly 80 percent of AT&T’s smartphone sales, Munster anticipates the Apple device comprising a much lower share of Verizon’s more diverse line.