How Apple's iPhone Changed Verizon Wireless

Includes: AAPL, GOOG, T, VZ
by: Larry Dignan

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is reportedly talking to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) about using its upcoming mobile operating system. It has unveiled a bevy of phones for the holiday season and generally seems more hip overall–at least for Verizon. So why the change?

Two words: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone.

There is no way Verizon, which arguably has the best network but a lackluster phone lineup, would be this aggressive if it weren’t for a potential AT&T (NYSE:T)/Apple iPhone threat (which by the way hasn’t materialized for Verizon Wireless yet). The iPhone means rivals have to generate some kind of cool factor. Verizon Wireless is so aware of this that it’s even chatting with Google, which may be bidding for 700 Mhz wireless spectrum.

To wit:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon Wireless is in advanced talks with Google about using the search giant’s mobile operating system for its handsets. The move is notable because Google would get a huge win with Verizon Wireless on board. Verizon would get cheaper handsets–Google’s mobile OS would be open source–and Google gets to dent Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and more ads of course.
  • Verizon Wireless has dropped its complaints about the FCC’s rules over the upcoming 700 Mhz auction. The Journal tried to link the Google talks with the FCC developments but they may not be related. It could be that Verizon figures its better to play ball than fight the inevitable freeing of wireless phones.
  • Verizon Wireless’ new phone lineup is pretty sharp. Verizon Wireless is notorious for having a weak phone lineup. Want a snazzy handset? Wait a year–or more–for it to appear at Verizon Wireless. Meanwhile, Sprint (NYSE:S) and AT&T already have it. That’s changing and as a Verizon Wireless customer (with a clunky Motorola Q) it’s a welcome development.

These developments are quite a sea change for Verizon Wireless. Among wireless carriers, the innovators on phones and new technology have been T-Mobile and Sprint. There’s a good reason for that: Both are smaller than AT&T and Verizon Wireless and need to roll the dice to get bigger.

Here’s to hoping Verizon Wireless’ newfound edge benefits wireless customers.