After years of waiting and a lot of rumors, today it was finally announced that the iPhone will be coming to Verizon next month. Current Verizon subscribers will be able to pre-order their very own iPhone 4 starting on February 3rd, and it will be available for purchase by anyone at Verizon and Apple Stores on February 10th. There will be two models available, a 16GB for $199 and a 32GB for $299 (both requiring a 2 year activation and data pak commitment).

Verizon’s iPhone will be nearly identical to the one currently available to AT&T subscribers, save for the GSM-related hardware being swapped out for Verizon’s CDMA kit. The Verizon iPhone will also have a mobile hotspot functionality included which allows connection of up to 5 devices to share network connectivity, which admittedly is a nice addition. New Verizon iPhone owners will be able to experience the wonders of the Retina display and FaceTime like their AT&T compatriots, although they’ll soon realize a few shortcomings in their brand new purchase. The first blow comes when you realize that nothing has been done to resolve the inherent issue with CDMA that keeps users from being able to use both their data and voice connections simultaneously. While this is not necessarily a feature I personally use all the time, there have been multiple situations where I was on hold (or actively on the phone with someone) and needed to look something up on the internet, something which I would not be able to accomplish on a Verizon iPhone. The folks at Ars Technica asked Verizon about this shortcoming at this morning’s press conference by stating “what happens when you’re on a call and need to use data?”, and the Verizon reps tried to brush it off by saying “Same as a CDMA device”.

The second stumbling block that I see, is that Verizon iPhone users will possibly be perpetually a revision behind GSM iPhone users. For instance, if the current GSM iPhone refresh trend continues, then the iPhone 5 will be released to the GSM market in July of this year, while CDMA iPhone users will have to wait until next Feb for their iPhone 5. Although when probed, Verizon would not comment as to whether or not their CDMA iPhone would be on a one-year refresh cycle. Verizon doesn’t have any sort of exclusivity deal on the CDMA iPhone, so theoretically it would be possible that come the release of the iPhone 6, Apple could try to skew the CDMA iPhone release date by a few months to line up with that of the GSM version, opting not to release a CDMA iPhone 5 in 2012, but instead skipping them directly up to the iPhone 6. This would get all iPhone releases on the same schedule, allowing for the same feature sets on all iPhones.

I see the Verizon iPhone is a good thing for both AT&T and Verizon subscribers and hopefully the release of a CDMA iPhone will lead to more competitive pricing on data plans, or less restrictions on minimum download sizes here in the US. There is currently no information available regarding the cost of Verizon’s data plans for iPhone users, but if they were to offer the often rumored unlimited data plan, then this could mean very good news to AT&T customers, as AT&T would certainly have to follow suit. There is no doubt that despite any perceived shortcomings, the Verizon iPhone will be a huge launch-day success. It will be interesting to see how things shake out over the next year as GSM iPhone owners gear up for the (yet to be announce) iPhone 5. For more details about the Verizon iPhone, visit the official Verizon iPhone 4 site.