Five Questions About The Verizon iPhone

Rumor became reality Tuesday morning when Verizon announced it would start carrying Apple's iPhone 4 on February 10. The announcement brings to an end Apple's nearly 4-year long arrangement with AT&T as the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States.

The Verizon-compatible iPhone 4 is Apple's first handset to use a CDMA chipset, and will run on the carrier's 3G wireless network. Pricing for the handset will be the same as AT&T: $200 for the 16GB iPhone 4 and $300 for the 32GB version with a two-year contract. Verizon will not carry the iPhone 3GS for $99 as AT&T does.

In a move aimed directly at AT&T, all Verizon iPhones will come pre-loaded with the ability to turn your handset into a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices (most of the Android phones on Verizon have this feature). AT&T does not offer a similar service for the iPhone and only recently allowed users to tether their iPhones to a single device, such as a laptop, using a USB cable or Bluetooth. It's not yet clear how much Verizon will charge for the MiFi-like service. AT&T charges a $20 convenience fee to tether the iPhone.

So that's what we know so far about the infamous Ver-iPhone, but there's still a lot we don't know. What do Apple and Verizon have in store for iPhone fans in the future? Does the Apple-Verizon partnership signal a bigger strategy for Apple? Here are the few questions top of my mind.

Will the Rumored iPhone 5 Arrive on Verizon and AT&T at the Same Time?

If Apple is true to form, the company should announce a new iPhone handset in June during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. But if that's the case, will Verizon get the new iPhone at the same time as Apple's other partners? Five months is an awfully short time to introduce a popular product like the iPhone before having to discount it in favor of an updated handset. Then again, Verizon may be forced to cut the device's price anyway if users flock to AT&T to get their hands on the newer iPhone.

Another round of speculation for the next iPhone is when we'll see an Apple handset compatible with Verizon's new (and faster) LTE network. So far, Apple doesn't appear to be ready to commit to Verizon 4G. "First-generation LTE chipsets force compromises Apple doesn't want to make," said Apple COO Tim Cook during the Verizon announcement Tuesday.

Is Verizon's Hotspot Feature A Threat To AT&T?

Verizon iPhone's hotspot feature could be a huge selling point. AT&T offers nothing similar with the iPhone and charges a $20 convenience fee just to tether your device via USB or Bluetooth to one external device.

But there are some downsides to having a Verizon CDMA-based iPhone versus AT&T's GSM model. The first problem is that Verizon's CDMA devices can't access data while on a voice call, like AT&T's GSM version can. It looks like the Ver-iPhone will have that same drawback. The Verizon iPhone will also be on a slower 3G network compared to AT&T. But Verizon's iPhone will likely provide more reliable coverage across the country than AT&T.

Who's next?

Now that Apple's exclusivity arrangement with AT&T is over which carriers will be next to get the iPhone? Is a T-Mobile or Sprint iPhone in the cards now? What about the iPhone on smaller carriers such as the CDMA-based U.S. Cellular?

Cook said Tuesday that Apple's arrangement with Verizon is non-exclusive meaning the company should be free to put its CDMA phone on other networks should it choose to do so.

What about that unlimited data plan?

A hot rumor leading up to Verizon's iPhone announcement was that it would offer an unlimited data plan with the iPhone as AT&T once did. But the company failed to make any mention of iPhone data plans or pricing on Tuesday. It's not clear if Verizon iPhone customers will see Verizon's standard smartphone data plans or if the carrier will tailor a plan specifically for the iPhone.

Is Apple Working On A Dual-Chipset World Phone?

With Apple striking out into CDMA cellular territory, can a dual-chipset world phone be far behind? Right now, Apple's GSM iPhone will work in most countries around the world since GSM is virtually a global standard for cellular networks. But a dual-chipset phone would make the iPhone a nearly universal handset, and would join the ranks of other world phone makers including Research In Motion, Motorola and HTC.

Upgrade Hassles Or Smooth Transition?

Current Verizon customers will be able to pre-order the iPhone starting February 3. If you're eligible for an upgrade, you can get the iPhone at the subsidized price or pay full price if you're not yet eligible for an upgrade. Verizon has not announced any special incentives or early eligibility deals for existing customers. You can check your eligibility on Verizon's Website here. If you've purchased a new Verizon handset recently you can return it within 30 days of purchase to take advantage of the iPhone 4 instead.

The iPhone on Verizon should provide a big boost for Apple's iPhone sales in 2011. Shortly after Verizon's announcement, IHS iSuppli said a Verizon iPhone should boost Apple's handset sales by 25 percent this year. The market research firm also predicts Verizon and other CDMA carriers around the world will sell 12.1 million iPhones by the end of December.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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