Verizon Wireless picks up world's best-selling smart phone

After years of speculation, the iPhone is finally coming to the Verizon network, breaking the lock AT&T has had on the Apple smart phone since 2007.

Smart phone users who have wanted an Apple iPhone without being locked into AT&T's service now have another option.

In an announcement today, Verizon and Apple announced that the iPhone 4 is coming to the Verizon Wireless network. The announcement has been long-awaited, since the original iPhone was released exclusively to the AT&T wireless network in summer 2007.

A Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) version of the iPhone 4 will be available at Verizon stores on Feb. 10, with pre-orders for existing customers on Feb. 3, according to MobileCrunch which attended at the announcement at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The Verizon iPhone 4 will be almost identical to its AT&T brethren with a couple key exceptions. Foremost among them will be that the Verizon version will be able to become a mobile hotspot with the ability to tether five devices to the phone’s connection. AT&T does not offer this service on any of its phones. On the flip side, AT&T has the ability to let consumers use data services (such as with a mobile application like Google Maps) while using also using the phone’s voice services. Verizon’s CDMA does not support that type of multi-tasking.

“If the press writes about it long enough and hard enough, it becomes true,” said Lowell McAdam, chief operating officer and president of Verizon.

Prices for the Verizon iPhone are much the same as AT&T's -- $199.99 for the 16G version with a two-year contract, $299.99 for the 32G version.

Although Verizon has been rolling out a slew of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) phones, most based on the Android operating system, the iPhone 4 coming to the Verizon network will be of the advanced 3G variety. The only fundamental hardware difference between the AT&T iPhone 4 and the Verizon version will be the radio chip. AT&T runs off the Global Systems for Mobile Communications and High Speed Packet Access architecture, while Verizon uses the CDMA Evolution-Data Optimized standard.

Accounts from the announcement alluded to an eventual LTE iPhone, but that would be a new product rollout by Apple (the iPhone 5 maybe?) and not a carrier announcement of a new device on its network, which is what Verizon did today.