All the talk about Apple's(AAPL Quote) next U.S. iPhone carrier once the AT&T(T Quote) exclusivity expires appears focused on Verizon Wireless(VZ Quote).
There are some good reasons for this: VZW has the reputation of having the best network, partially for its consistency in CDMA/EVDO in combination with its 850 MHz band. With 89 million wireless customers, VZW is 9% larger than AT&T's 82 million wireless subscribers. Before I get into my argument, I need to make the point that I don't know when AT&T's U.S. iPhone exclusivity ends. All indication is that it will take place no earlier than 2010, but no later than 2012. But really nobody outside Apple and AT&T knows.
Perhaps AT&T will pay for an extension to whatever the current or recent data were supposed to have been. And the rest of my argument is somewhat dependent on when this eventually takes place.
Let's assume that the AT&T exclusivity ends relatively soon, say June 2010. Apple would then have the choice to spread the iPhone to all U.S. carriers, or only some. Which one would be Apple's highest priority?
My contention is that it is in Apple's best interest to make Sprint(S Quote)/Clearwire(CLWR Quote) its highest priority, if it could do so relatively soon, say by mid-2010.
The common suggestion that Apple should go with VZW is misguided: It's not that Apple needs VZW. It's that any carrier needs the iPhone. From this perspective, it can be said that it is the iPhone that makes any carrier. So therefore, the critical question becomes: What does Apple get out of the deal? It doesn't matter what the carrier gets out of the deal, because all carriers will take the deal.
This long winded article could have been much shorter if the author had simply asked "which second U.S. carrier is in Apple's best financial interest to support".
The clear answer is Verizon with 90 million subs. Vz could if they chose waive early termination fees to allow upgrading from cheaper phones to the iPhone, generating potentially millions of new iPhone users.
Maybe making money is a bit too conventional for this dreamer.