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The speculation has been, if nothing else, consistent.

It goes like this: When the exclusive deal between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and AT&T (NYSE:T) for the iPhone comes to an end, believed to be sometime next year, the maker of the most popular smartphone will likely team up with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), the carrier that has the most subscribers and the better service. That’s pretty much been the buzz for some time now.

Not so fast, though, says Thomas Weisel analyst Doug Reid, who suggests in a note today that a Verizon-Apple deal may not be as much of a slam-dunk as some (myself included) might think - or at least be hoping for. Instead, Reid suggests that T-Mobile is a more likely second carrier for the iPhone, according to a report on TheStreet.com.

For a guy who has iPhone envy but is sticking with Camp Verizon, I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with what Reid is suggesting. But, he makes some valid points. Consider the following:

  • Verizon recently launched a partnership with Google’s Android and launched a pretty bold marketing campaign for the Motorola Droid, positioning it as a head-to-head competitor with the iPhone.
  • Apple already sells iPhones through Germany’s T-Mobile unit so negotiating a deal in the U.S. with parent company Deutsche Telekom may be easier.
  • Verizon is gearing up for launch of its 4G technology, called Long Term Evolution, or LTE. Why launch an “old” phone on old technology when it could wait to roll out a 4G iPhone on a 4G network, giving AT&T users a reason to jump ship.
  • Apple and Verizon reportedly clashed over control of the device once before. Now that both are holding stronger poker hands - Apple’s iPhone is off-the-charts for popularity while Verizon has the largest customer base, as well as 3G network in the U.S. (AT&T says it has the fastest 3G network but doesn’t dispute that Verizon’s 3G network covers a greater area.)
  • Finally, investors may not react kindly to a deal with T-Mobile over Verizon, largely because it keeps one of Apple’s flagship products out of the hands of the nation’s largest group of mobile phone customers.

Obviously, the players aren’t talking about what the future might hold - so it’s still all about speculation. In the meantime, Droid has been getting some strong reviews - I have one now and, while I’m still playing with it, I like what I see so far. The momentum around Google’s mobile OS is growing and the number of devices and carriers - as well as apps - on Droid will only continue to grow.

I have been ready to dump the Blackberry for some time now but had been holding out for a Verizon iPhone. The longer I wait, the more I like the Droid. At some point, if Android can offer me just as great of a user experience as the iPhone, maybe that iPhone envy of mine will go away.

After just a couple of weeks with Droid in-hand, I’m already starting to feel some of that envy slip away.

Source: The iPhone's Next Carrier Is Likely T-Mobile, Not Verizon