NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Whether the hordes of Verizon Wireless subscribers sure to become glued to the iPhone screens in coming months will include Ivan Seidenberg remains to be seen.
The chairman-CEO of the largest U.S. mobile provider, which today revealed much-awaited plans to offer next month a version of the Apple device that has only available on AT&T, currently carries a BlackBerry and a Droid. In a brief chat about the news following an interview on an unrelated matter, Mr. Seidenberg indicated he hadn't yet played with the phone.
"I've never used it simply because we don't carry it," he said. "Periodically, we'll go out and try a competitor's product to see what it's like. That way, we're more effective in dealing with the Droid manufacturers. I haven't made up my mind what I'm going to carry."
Asked whether he was more a fan of the keyboard or touchscreen for typing, he offered this: "I'm a bad example, so you're gonna get a bad answer from me. I have the Samsung tablet and the iPad and the BlackBerry. I carry a lot and hook them all up on different days of the week. I'm interested in the experience that the customer will get on all of them. I can tell you there are attributes of each device that are better than others."
Mr. Seidenberg is responsible for growing Verizon into the top wireless operator in the U.S., well-liked -- or at least as well-liked as mobile operators get -- for providing a large and reliable network. Landing the iPhone is a major long-term coup, sure to be a hit with current subscribers and their collective pent-up demand. It's unclear how many additional subscribers the device will bring over the next few months, given that many consumers are waiting for an iPhone capable of working on 4G networks. Those may come this summer -- or not. Apple, as ever, has been cagey about revealing product plans.
Of the iPhone, Mr. Seidenberg said, "The device is very important in the market so we felt adding to our portfolio is a good idea. And so did Apple. It was a no-brainer. [The iPhone] has helped to drive smartphone penetration in the country. We took the Droid, but it's important for us to have more than one iconic device."
The Verizon iPhone announcement came in a press conference in this morning, starring Lowell McAdam, Verizon president and chief operating officer and Mr. Seidenberg's heir apparent. The phone will be available to existing customers beginning Feb. 3 and then to new customers a week later. There will be two versions: a 16-GB model for $200 and a 32-GB model for $300. Both come with a two-year contract.
Many were expecting the news to come during CES last week, where Mr. Seidenberg was the keynote speaker. Instead of iPhones, he and Mr. McAdam talked about Verizon's 4G LTE network, already rolled out in 38 markets.
Follow Matthew Creamer on Twitter: @matt_creamer
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