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Verizon iPhone: the ‘Chinese Democracy’ of smartphones?

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Seth Wenig / AP / File

(Read caption) In this April 6, 2010 file photograph, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Speaking to an investor conference on Sept. 23, Seidenberg said nothing about an iPhone for the company's current network, but said he hopes Apple Inc. will come around and allow Verizon to sell the phone for a new network it's building.

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The ludicrously drawn out will-they-or-won't-they rumorfest that is the Verizon iPhone story never ends. The only parallel I can think of that does it justice in comparison is the 14 year wait for the Guns n' Roses album "Chinese Democracy".

Oh, and SPOILER ALERT: by the time that record was actually released, no one cared and it was unlistenable anyway. If Verizon and Apple want to keep dragging out the iPhone's Verizon launch, let them, but it will be at their own peril. Verizon seems to have found an alternative to Apple for the subscriber base in their Android-based offerings. Smartphones with the Android operating system are red hot and have given hope to the OEMs looking to take back share of the handset market. Just as Guns found that the fans had moved on and were doing fine without them, it is highly probable that a 2012 or later launch of a Verizon iPhone may be greeted with the atomic apathy of a sullen teen-caliber "whatever".

Axl Rose had been teasing us about Chinese Democracy since January 1994, when guitarist Gilby Clark was fired and the rest of the band first hit the studio. For years we heard rumors of song titles, listened to leaked tracks and then re-engineered versions of those leaked tracks and suffered through the announced defections of our favorite band members (Izzy's out! Slash is out! Duff's gone!).

By the time the album surfaced in November 2008, the title was rendered obsolete (China's been opened up quite a bit) and the entire band was gutted. Instead, we got a muddled patchwork of songs that had been fussed over and retro-fitted for 14 years and only Axl left from the original lineup. The Rock n' Roll Dictator of the Hollywood Hills had finally surfaced with a masked guitarist wearing a KFC bucket over his head and the audacity to take the stage with a glorified cover band under the name GNR. Disgraceful. Lynyrd Skynyrd is annihilated in one fell swoop in a plane crash, but these clowns will live forever? No justice.

But where was I? Oh, so Ivan Seidenberg (Verizon's CEO) and Apple's Steve Jobs seem to delight at making both cryptic remarks and specific ones about the possibility of an iPhone product for the giant carrier. It would double the iPhone user base within a year if it happened right now, yet inconceivably, there don't appear to be any plans for one, at least according to Seidenberg's most recent remarks this week. Yet it is never explicitly ruled out and common sense dictates that the product is an inevitability.

Like Guns fans and their lust for new material, Verizon users in the New York Metro area (in which AT&T's service renders the iPhone, shall we say, less than adequate) have been salivating for the "Jesusphone" since 2006. We Verizon subs are patiently waiting and making do with our Blackberrys as the rumors and hints and denials ebb and flow with the constancy of the tides - a blip on the Huffington Post, a wink and a nod on CNBC, a blurb on TechCrunch, etc.

AT&T subs who love their iPhones but hate their carrier are waiting as well, 1.4 million of them according to The Apple Blog. If you live in Manhattan, chances are you have at least one friend who's said something to the effect of "I don't care if I drop every call, I'm not giving up my iPhone or my apps no matter what." I have quite a few of these acquaintances - we really only text these days .

Axl blew it, his band barely survived grunge, hid out during the Jiggy Era of Hip Hop dominance during the mid to late 90's, avoided taking part in the atrocious nü-metal movement (remember Korn? Ucchh) and witnessed Appetite For Destruction's addition to the Classic Rock radio format's perma-playlist. Chinese Democracy landed with a thud, 99 out of 100 people couldn't name a single track off that record even if they can tell you half the tracks off the two decades-old Use Your Illusion double disc.

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The iPhone is still the class of the field, the most coveted handset in existence - but for how long? Will all this foreplay cost them their dominance as we find a way to lose interest and move on with other phones in our lives? The other OEMs and carriers aren't sitting around waiting to find out, they are innovating and launching and promoting and improving. Every day.

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