Memo to Steve Jobs: It's Time to Open Up

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) may be teaming up, but few Fools are interested in what could be the first 4G iPhone. Color me stunned.

As of this writing, only 52% of those polled say they'd switch from AT&T (NYSE: T  ) to get a new iPhone compatible with Verizon's 4G network, which is based on a technology called Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and due to go live in 38 U.S. cities before the end of the year. I take three things from this:

  1. AT&T isn't dropping calls nearly as much as it used to.
  2. Users don't trust scandal-tinged Verizon as much as they used to.
  3. Rising interest in Android handsets makes 4G iPhones less appealing, especially when 4G phones from Samsung and HTC are already available.

Both smartphones -- HTC's EVO 4G, and Samsung's Epic 4G -- are built for WiMAX, an LTE alternative that's already built into pockets of Sprint's (NYSE: S  ) network. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) have invested in the technology by backing Sprint Nextel partner Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) .

So if some Fools are lukewarm about the prospects for an LTE iPhone on Verizon's network, and others are tired of AT&T's performance, is it possible they'd prefer a WiMAX iPhone? Should Apple and Sprint be talking? I think so.

Look, I know it wouldn't be easy for Apple to support three different types of networks. AT&T's GSM, Verizon's CDMA, and Sprint's CDMA and iDEN differ in numerous ways. LTE and WiMAX also differ. But Apple has been hiring hardware experts, and surely the designers of the A4 chip can also figure out how to economically create a line of iPhones that sport a choice of wireless radios.

The strategy also makes sense with Apple adding retail partners. Amazon.com and Target recently began selling the iPad, for example. More channels need more volume, and more volume means more handsets. There's never been a better time for Apple to open up.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you want to see Sprint Nextel carry a WiMAX iPhone? Please vote in the poll below, and leave a comment to explain your thinking.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Intel and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is beyond caffeinated.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 3:14 PM, hybrid4G wrote:

    If Apple is to join VZ, it's not going to be 4G LTE iPhone, but CDMA iPhone 4, I believe. That's because VZ won't be able to launch LTE phones in 2 to 3 years from now. VZ officially confirmed that the new LTE will be used for laptop use only for a while.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 3:19 PM, macdesktops wrote:

    Nice bait and switch with the title. Asking Apple to develop new hardware for currently unsupported protocols on currently unsupported carriers has nothing to do with "opening up."

    Put my vote down for "Whatever. Apple should put their resources where they make the most sense."

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 3:32 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @macdesktop

    Thanks for writing.

    >>Nice bait and switch with the title.

    Not at all. Now that we know a Verizon iPhone is coming and that Apple is broadening its distribution reach, there's every reason to believe in a more open strategy that has the company making iPhones and related devices available on a variety of networks.

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 3:49 PM, Mark1Wagner wrote:

    "only 52% of those polled say they'd switch from AT&T (NYSE: T) to get a new iPhone compatible with Verizon's 4G network..."

    Only 52%??? LOL. I guess AT&T wouldn't mind losing such minuscule number of iPhone users.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 3:58 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @Mark1Wagner,

    >>Only 52%??? LOL. I guess AT&T wouldn't mind losing such minuscule number of iPhone users.

    I'm sure AT&T would mind, but I honestly thought the ratio would be much higher. I thought responders would salivate over the idea of LTE iPhone. In *that* sense, 52% is a low number.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2010, at 4:35 PM, jfrando wrote:

    This is an article that was written for the sake of writing an article. The author pays no mind to Apple's business model or the reason why Apple is so successful. The author simply states something he wants without understanding how this would affect Apple's bottom line. This article is not representative of the purpose of this site. Its simply lazy typing without any insight or effect on Apple's market. Why bother coming to this site, I can read dribble like this over at Tech Crunch.

  • Report this Comment On October 12, 2010, at 1:29 PM, spokanimal wrote:

    Clearwire's network is being built with 2010 technology. Any design issues in AT&T's or Verizon's current networks that pertain to fully digital 4G transmission will be optimized in the Clearwire grid.

    Combine that with Clearwire's massive amount of spectrum that will probably run both WiMax and LTE before it's all said and done and...

    ... I believe that if Apple wants to solidify it's position as the number 1 device solution, they should also go with what will be the #1 digital network of the 21st century and get involved with Clearwire.

    S.

  • Report this Comment On October 12, 2010, at 5:24 PM, rfaramir wrote:

    I'm rather with macdesktops on the title being misleading. Though, I thought you'd mean opening up the OS platform to more developers, whether wanting more app store alternatives, Flash apps, or lower app approval barriers.

    The term I'd use for targeting a new hardware connection method is diversification, not opening up. There's nothing "open" about Apple supporting a new phone technology. It would be Apple putting effort into engineering a solution for a faster connection method as the basis for a new product.

    For months I was hoping Apple would partner with Sprint, whether they offered 4G or not. I was very hesitant to switch to poor-reputation AT&T to pay much more for the privilege of using Apple's cool iPhone. We finally jumped this summer (after seeing the exclusivity with AT&T not end in June as rumored), and I've got to say it's been worth it. Now that I'm linked in, I'm not that interested anymore with other options until my 2 year contract runs out.

    So now I'm looking with patient eyes at what state the technologies will be in 2 years from now. Will AT&T really have LTE? Will Verizon? Will Sprint's WiMax catch on by then? Will Apple support both? (No likelihood of neither, I hope.)

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