Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) logo will be on display at Verizon Wireless stores later this month, but don't go in looking for an iPhone 4.
Verizon Wireless -- the pairing of Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD ) -- will begin selling three iPad models that offer 3G connectivity through optional "MiFi" gadgets that can connect to Verizon's data network when Wi-Fi access isn't available. Similar to the arrangement with AT&T (NYSE: T ) , there are no long-term contracts here. Customers who want 3G access simply pay by the month.
AT&T deserves this. It tripped Apple up just weeks after the 3G iPads became available in late April. Apple charges $130 more for the 3G model over the Wi-Fi-only units, but it was originally tied to an unlimited data plan for $30 a month through AT&T.
In June, AT&T decided to stop marketing unlimited data plans to new customers. The only plans available now are $15 for 200 megs and $25 for 2 gigabytes. It may seem like less, but this is a potential roadblock for a device where its two most popular third-party downloads at launch were streaming applications for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) and Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) ABC.
Verizon Wireless isn't coming to the rescue for those who want the confidence and flexibility of unlimited connectivity. Its data plan will set owners back $20 a month, but it's capped at a single gigabyte. It's a pity. Verizon really could have wrestled away the iPad 3G market from AT&T if it had come in with an unlimited plan, but now it will have to bank on its network's heartier reputation to drive buyers.
The larger story, of course, is that Verizon probably wouldn't be offering one Apple product come Oct. 29 if the iPhone wasn't coming sooner rather than later. Why promote Apple's brand and expose Apple's sticky iOS platform to Verizon Wireless loyalists?
The iPad is coming to Verizon -- and the iPhone can't be all that far behind.