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Verizon's Advantages: Unlimited Data & Android

Unlimited data plans and a handful of new Android smartphones are going to be Verizon Wireless 's key weapons against the arrival of the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4 on AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s 3G network this summer. (See Apple Unveils the iPhone 4.)

AT&T will start to cap its 3G mobile data plans this week, concurrent with the launch of the iPhone 4. So, independent telecom analyst Carmi Levy suggests, Verizon can push its unlimited plans to users that don't want to put up with the headaches of tracking data usage every month. (See Capping the Data Gusher.)

"In many respects, Verizon's biggest advantage could be the fact that it doesn't yet offer the iPhone, because it isn't subject to the same crushing bandwidth issues faced by iPhone-toting customers -- and AT&T -- in major US cities," Levy notes. "Without the network-choking equivalent of the Sword of Damocles hanging over its neck, Verizon can afford to hold on to unlimited plans -- and similarly customer-friendly alternatives -- for far longer than AT&T ever could."

Verizon offers an unlimited data plan for smartphones at $29.99. "Savvy marketing that plays into growing consumer and business frustration with capped plans -- and takes a few shots at AT&T in the process -- could be more than enough to swing momentum Verizon's way," Levy suggests.

Continuing to promote better coverage and offerings like family plans can also help Verizon, suggests Gerry Purdy, principal analyst at MobileTrax. Verizon and AT&T engaged for months in a TV and online battle over which company offers better wireless coverage, but AT&T gave up that fight. (See AT&T & Verizon End Map Scrap and Luke Wilson’s War.)

Unleash the Androids
Verizon can also offer new phones to compete with iPhone 4, since the vendors backing Android haven't been sitting still. "How can they make the best go of it?" asks Purdy. "Well, Android."

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) will have two more Android phones -- the Droid2 and the Shadow -- on the network in July. (See Motorola Brings More Droids to VZW .)

High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), meanwhile, is said to be working on an Android phone with a front-facing camera for Verizon. That device, which may turn out to be the infamous Scorpion, is expected on the network by the third quarter.

The iPhone, eventually
Nonetheless, Purdy believes that Verizon will get the iPhone eventually. "Its a frustration for some people internally at Verizon," he says, noting that the terms of the exclusive deal between Apple and AT&T still aren't public knowledge.

But Purdy believes it will eventually be better for Apple, in sales terms, to be available on Verizon's and other carriers' networks as well as AT&T. "Long term, they’re going to have to get on Verizon," he says.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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