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Manifest Destiny

January 10, 2011

The invitation reads: "Join us as we share the latest news from Verizon Wireless" - ten words that many consider to be a harbinger of a huge shift in the mobile market. Scuttlebutt is that Verizon will announce the debut of the iPhone on the Verizon network on Tuesday.

As CNET points out, a Verizon iPhone isn't just about expanding carriers. In addition to the network, the underlying technology of the Verizon iPhone is fundamentally different from that of AT&T. After a Consumer Reports survey from late last year called AT&T the 'worst carrier' in the market, the tech community has been focusing on the fact that Verizon has a more expansive network - but often ignores that Verizon's network works differently from AT&T's.

Additionally, part of the reason AT&T's network has been underperforming is because it has been responsible for the entirety of the iPhone market. The technological difference between the two carriers is one of the reasons Mashable's Ben Parr cites to explain why the expansion won't sink AT&T. In addition to high early termination fees, and two-year contracts, Parr explains, "The AT&T iPhone 4 is based on UMTS 3G technology, while the Verizon iPhone will be based on Verizon's CDMA 3G tech.

The result is that consumers will have to buy a new iPhone and a new contract." While we may see a spike around release time, any shifts in user-ship will occur in the long term. That gives AT&T time to perfect its 4G network whose success or failure will be the true bellwether of AT&T's lasting power. Long-term predictions almost uniformly point to Android domination of the smartphone market as many different carriers support the platform and many of the phones are sold at a significantly lower price point than the iPhone.

However, if the British market is any indication, this latest move by Apple and Verizon is likely to disrupt that trend. Once consumers' contracts allow them to 'trade up,' the iPhone will outshine its Android counterparts. According to Macgasm, the real loser here isn't Android but RIM whose devices are already selling at lower rates than Android phones. RIM will almost undoubtedly see users trade in their devices for iPhones. This competition is ultimately good for consumers, Mashable reports that rumors are already circulating that Verizon plans to offer an unlimited data plan. But Verizon and consumers aside, the real winner, as ever, is Apple.