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I read an article recently that suggested the iPhone could soon be available on T-Mobile. I've also read that the iPhone may be coming to Verizon. A little bit of research shows that people have been making similar claims for a long time. Is it all wishful thinking by folks who want the iPhone but can't stand AT&T? Is it some kind of PR effort by Apple's competitors meant to trick us into holding off buying the iPhone? So, what do you think—should I wait just a little bit longer for the iPhone to come to another cell-phone carrier?
—Tired of Waiting
Waiting for the iPhone to come to Verizon is sort of like waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series. In theory, it's overdue to happen, and when it does, it will be huge. But until then, it's best to treat it as a fantasy—an event so unlikely that we'd be wise to go about our normal lives until we see real evidence of it actually occurring.
Right now, there are no clear indications that the iPhone will break free from AT&T anytime soon. Many of the stories suggesting otherwise cite either industry analysts or anonymous insiders. But industry analysts are notoriously dodgy about Apple's future (we'd been hearing that an Apple tablet was just around the corner since 2002), and anyone actually in a position to know has no incentive to talk about it. (Apple doesn't want to dampen current iPhone sales by leaking news of a future Verizon version.)
What do we know about Apple's deal with AT&T? Not much. In a court case earlier this year, Apple confirmed that it signed an exclusive five-year contract with AT&T in 2007. But that doesn't mean you should expect magical things in 2012—we have no word on what's happened to the contract since then. It's possible, and maybe even likely, that the two companies made some change that could give other companies access to the iPhone later or earlier. We have no idea.
So what's the best way to shop for a smartphone in the meantime? First, assume the iPhone will be exclusive to AT&T for the foreseeable future. Second, if you're interested, try out an iPhone—buy one and see how AT&T's network works in all of the places you frequent. If it's a lemon, you can take the phone back within 30 days. Also try out other smartphones in the iPhone's class (Motorola's Droid, HTC's Evo) on their respective networks. Another option is to buy an unlocked iPhone and use it on T-Mobile, whose cellular protocol is compatible with AT&T's (though you won't get the fastest networking speeds under this scenario).
What if you're unlucky enough to commit to one of these alternatives just before Apple unveils a Verizon iPhone? That would be tough, but not the end of the world. You can wait two years. By then someone will have invented something better.
I've heard many stories of parents who check out their kids' Facebook accounts after the kids have blocked them. How does this work?
—Just Curious, I Swear