In 2007, Apple's chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, introduced the iPhone, which instantly became one of the most talked-about consumer products ever. Thousands of customers lined up to be the first to buy the phones, which featured computing and Wi-Fi capabilities, along with a crisp, computer-like display on an innovative touch screen. Rivals rushed phones with similar features onto the market.
Three years later, seeking to fend off intensifying competition from Google and others in the smartphone business, Apple in 2010 introduced a new version of the iPhone that includes a front-facing camera for video chats. The iPhone 4 became Apple’s most successful phone introduction yet and sales were expected to accelerate when Verizon offered its version of the iPhone.
The long-expected arrival of the iPhone on Verizon ended years of exclusivity for AT&T and was likely to upend the smartphone market in the United States. Consumer surveys suggested that demand for a Verizon iPhone is large, as many people have held off from buying an iPhone simply to avoid AT&T’s much-publicized network problems, which include spotty coverage and dropped calls.
Despite icy temperatures in New York on Feb. 10, 2011, people eager to buy the new iPhone filed into Apple and Verizon stores. Many noted, however, that the stores seemed to have prepared for a much larger crush of customers than they received. The muted enthusiasm was in sharp contrast to the initial introduction of the iPhone 4 on AT&T’s network in June 2010.
A Verizon iPhone could help sell millions of new devices, continuing the iPhone’s strong momentum. It may also become an obstacle to the rapid rise of Android devices, most of which are sold by Verizon Wireless. While the iPhone remains the best-selling smartphone in the United States, many handset makers sell devices running Google’s Android software. Collectively, those devices outsell the iPhone.
Verizon's iPhone version will work only on the carrier's current "3G" network even though the carrier has fired up a faster "4G" network in many cities. That super-fast wireless data network is available only to plug-in laptop modems for now, but Verizon will have smart phones for it by the summer of 2011.
Verizon's iPhone 4 has one feature AT&T's does not: It can act as a portable Wi-Fi "hot spot," connecting up to five laptops or other devices to Verizon's 3G network through Wi-Fi. It's a feature that's been offered on other smart phones, usually for an added monthly fee.