The end to AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone in the US is finally here! While the rest of the world got multiple carrier support last year or earlier, in the US, if you wanted the iPhone, you had to go with AT&T. Starting February 10th though, you will have a choice.

Some don’t find AT&T that bad (myself included). It gets overloaded like the other carriers, it has dead spots like the other carriers, but it does have the fastest 3G available. When you can get 3G that is. AT&T does seem very susceptible to overloading. That annoying time when you have full bars but just can’t get a connection or make a call. The real problem with an AT&T only iPhone is that there are lots of potential iPhone users that have no AT&T coverage at all. Or perhaps for one reason or another just can’t use AT&T. So today that problem finally comes to an end and and Verizon, the carrier with the largest 3G coverage area finally gets the iPhone. Here are the full details.

Stock iPhone 4 – This is the standard iPhone 4, but with a CDMA radio.

This is the standard iPhone 4, in one color initially, black. No real modification of the iPhone 4 except to replace the GSM radio with one that will work on the Verizon network. It should be noted that this iPhone 4 only works on Verizon 3G network, no 4G/LTE in this model.

Though they are claiming it’s exactly the same, it is a bit different. As you can see in the photo above, the lines that separate the antenna parts in the band around the phone are in different locations. This is likely to accomodate the different frequencies of CDMA over GSM.

The big difference is that the Verizon iPhone 4 will support a mobile hotspot feature. This is something iPhone users have wanted for a long time. This will allow you to share the Verizon data connection with up to 5 devices over wifi. No word yet on what using this feature will cost though. Currently, Verizon charges $20/month for up to 2GB of data when tethering to other smartphones on their network.

Verizon will also offer VZ Navigator, and V CAST Media Manager as downloadable applications in the App Store and each will likely have an additional monthly charge to use.

Availability – When will we finally get the iPhone on Verizon?

The iPhone 4 will be available on Verizon starting February 10th, 2011. Current Verizon customers can pre-order starting February 3rd.

Price – What will the iPhone on Verizon cost?

$199 for the 16GB model with a two year contract.
$299 for the 32GB model with a two year contract.

Plan Price – What about the plan price?

Well, we don’t know that yet. Verizon officially says that data plan prices will be announced at a later date. If we take their current rate plans for smartphones, the prices come out to be a little more than AT&T.

Under my current plan on AT&T, I have 2 iPhones with unlimited data and 2,000 texts/month, 700 minutes shared for around $120 before fees and taxes. A similar plan on Verizon will cost you $156 before fees and taxes, here’s how it breaks down:

700 Minutes / month shared between two phones – $69.99
500 texts / month $10.00 / month x 2 = $20.00
Unlimited Data $29.99 / month x 2 = $59.98
Visual Voicemail $2.99 / month x 2 = $5.98

If you want to add the ability to use the hotspot feature, that’s another $20.00 / month per line.

As noted though, these are the current prices, Verizon is going to have different pricing for the iPhone since all information says pricing information is coming soon for the iPhone plans. The big question is will that plan be more or less than the current one? We can only hope it will be less.

Usage Differences – What about using the iPhone 4 is different?

First and foremost it’s on the Verizon network. People seem to think that’s the holy grail, I’m not so sure. I’ve had Verizon devices before and have had a similar experience to what I have on AT&T. But you should have coverage in more areas of the country as Verizon does have the largest 3G coverage area. And choice is almost always better.

But, since this is a CDMA phone you will not be able to talk and use data at the same time. No taking a call and hopping on Yelp to find the name of that dim sum restaurant you wanted to tell your friend about. It’s one or the other. If you are using data and receive a phone call, it will go straight to voicemail. This was a tradeoff they were willing to make to get the iPhone on Verizon as soon as possible.

What about the iPhone 5? – That’s coming in 6 months, right?

Well most likely, yes. Will that come to Verizon? Apple and Verizon were not making any comments on that today. But we have to assume yes.

Upgrade / Switch now or wait? – Should you jump to the iPhone 4 on Verizon?

That’s a question that’s really up to you and how much you want it and how much you hate AT&T. First, we can assume that the iPhone 5 will be announced in June and be available in July just like the past 4 years. We can also assume that the iPhone 5 will come to Verizon as well.

It’s also likely that the iPhone 5 will be a minor upgrade to the iPhone 4. So if that’s the case and you want to move to Verizon, I say go for it now. And if you want to upgrade to the iPhone 5 when it’s out you will just need to pay the premium price (likely $300-500 more) to get it.

The other option is to just wait until the summer to see what is announced and decide then.

I’m happy that the iPhone is finally available on the Verizon network for a couple reasons. One it’s good that people have choice. The easier it is for people to upgrade to the iPhone, the more that will do it. We should also see the iPhone come to other carriers soon as well. Though others may wait for the next iPhone. We’ll have to wait and see. Second, maybe enough people will leave AT&T that I won’t have so many problems with an over-saturated network in certain areas!

What do you think? Are you going to get the Verizon iPhone 4? Wait for iPhone 5? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

[photo credit Engadget for marked photos]