If Verizon gets the iPhone, who wins and who loses?

It seems that the writing is on the wall for the iPhone's next step. Here's who is in the best position to benefit

Let's assume that the conventional wisdom comes to pass: AT&T loses its exclusivity as the iPhone's carrier, and Apple's smartphone is brought to Verizon Wireless' network as well. Naturally, Verizon customers who are also iPhone fans will celebrate the news, but in terms of the big players in this space, who stands to gain the most, and who stands to be left behind?

The spin-jockeying has already begun: AT&T is pre-emptively claiming that losing its exclusive grip on the iPhone won't hurt its revenue. On the heels of that, Motorola floated the idea that it will benefit if the iPhone goes to Verizon. Both are likely wrong.

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Apple and Verizon, meanwhile, are staying fairly quiet, perhaps because they have nothing to be defensive about because they both stand to be the big winners in this scenario. Apple gets to sell iPhones to a whole new set of consumers, and Verizon gets to pick up a whole bunch more subscribers.

However, as Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Gartner, points out, these aren't unalloyed wins. Both companies have to carefully manage their positioning. Apple, for example, has to be wary about what it claims the iPhone can do. "Remember those ads Apple ran about the ability to do things like look up a movie time while you're talking to your buddy?" says Golvin. "No can do that on [Verizon's] network." (Back in the spring, Verizon was rumored to be making upgrades to its network to allow for simultaneous voice and data usage, but nothing has come to fruition yet.)

Verizon, meanwhile, has to carefully manage its relationship with Google. During its war with AT&T, Verizon backed the Droid as being superior to the iPhone (recall the "Droid does" ad campaign). If Verizon welcomes its erstwhile competitor, does that make Droid and its Google Android OS also-rans?

For business and IT -- well, call it a draw. While some businesses do have relationships with single carriers and restrict their employees to that carrier, the clear trend is for businesses to allow employees to bring their own devices, so the business opinion on increased iPhone availability is largely based on how happy each business is to support the iPhone.

So who loses? Well, Sprint and T-Mobile for starters. "There are lots of customers out there who would love to have an iPhone, but their antipathy toward AT&T outweighs that desire," says Golvin. "Sure, some are on Verizon, but a lot of them are on these two networks. And those ready to bolt [to Verizon for the iPhone] are likely to be among the highest ARPU (average revenue per user) subscribers."

Motorola and HTC are also likely to find themselves in the losers' column, as they make what are currently Verizon's flagship devices. If the iPhone comes and steals the spotlight, that means Motorola's Droid and HTC's Incredible will get pushed to the back.

And finally, AT&T will take a hit, but not necessarily in terms of lost customers. "AT&T has, I think, benefited mightily from having Apple as a marketing partner," says Golvin. "Losing that [partnership] will also hurt."

This story, "if Verizon gets the iPhone, who wins and who loses?" was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on important tech news with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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