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It’s official: Verizon adds the iPhone

Apple and Verizon have officially confirmed what everyone already knew: the iPhone is coming to Verizon. Existing Verizon customers will be able to place pre-orders for the iPhone beginning February 3, and general sales will commence a week later.

Although the move had been anticipated for quite some time, there was still a huge amount of interest in yesterday's announcement, particularly in the details of the device itself. Although Verizon’s iPhone will look and feel like the same iPhone 4 model that is currently sold through AT&T, there are some significant differences.

First, Apple has taken the opportunity to make corrective changes to the metal band antenna, which wraps around the phone and which was the subject of such poor reviews when the iPhone 4 was unveiled last June.

Second, Verizon’s iPhone will run on its 3G CDMA network rather than its much-vaunted 4G LTE network. This means that Apple has had to make some changes to the functionality of the iPhone, most notably its ability to simultaneously transmit voice and data. As The New York Times reports, Verizon iPhone users will not be able to look up directions or check e-mail while on a call, as they can with AT&T.

Although this is unlikely to make a difference to most customers, it might have implications for business users. What could be more important, however, is the ability of Verizon customers to use their iPhones overseas: Verizon’s CDMA network works in far fewer countries than AT&T’s GSM technology.

Other than these two issues, Verizon’s iPhone 4 is expected to operate in identical fashion to AT&T’s. It will feature the high-resolution Retina display; it will have FaceTime video conferencing capability; and there will be a 5-megapixel camera.

Of course the big question is whether Verizon’s network can handle the extra workload created by the addition of as many as nine million new iPhones this year alone. Here, Verizon executives sound extremely confident . At yesterday’s press conference they reported that Verizon engineers have been testing their network with the iPhone 4 for a year, and have monitored the data habits of millions of existing smartphone customers.

As a sign of faith in their network, Verizon will be offering something that AT&T does not: the ability to use the Verizon iPhone as a mobile hotspot, supplying a Wi-Fi connection to as many as five other devices.

Whether the availability of the iPhone on a second U.S. network will slow the rapid growth of Android-powered devices remains to be seen. Craig Moffett, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, told the Times that the iPhone’s move to Verizon was an “opportunity to see the iPhone compete with Android on a level playing field.”

One component of that level playing field will be price. A 16GB Verizon iPhone will cost $199 with a two year contract, while the 32GB version will cost $299, essentially mirroring the same price structure as AT&T.

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