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AT&T outbid Verizon with cheaper Apple iPad data plans - rumor


While talk of a Verizon-capable iPad incorrectly persisted for months, it was AT&T's willingness to offer inexpensive no-contract data plans that sealed the deal with Apple, a new report claims.

Clayton Morris of offered Wednesday what he called a "behind the scenes" look at talks between Apple and Verizon over the iPad and a potential CDMA-capable iPhone. Morris alleged that both companies are "still talking," despite the fact that Apple went out of its way to defend AT&T last week, and also introduced the wireless carrier as the sole 3G partner for the iPad in the U.S.

Morris has reported a number of Apple-related rumors in the last few months, but his level of accuracy thus far has been far from perfect.

Last month, Morris incorrectly reported that iPhone OS 4.0 and iLife 2010 were "confirmed" for Apple's iPad unveiling event. Apple instead introduced a multi-touch version of iWork for the iPad, and the device runs the unreleased iPhone OS 3.2.

Morris also previously alleged, in a separate report, that both Verizon and AT&T were engaged in last-minute talks to offer 3G data plans for the iPad. He claimed sources said Apple would release two versions of its touchscreen tablet: one CDMA and one GSM, to offer compatibility with both wireless providers.

Morris is an anchor on the program "Fox & Friends" on Fox News Channel. His personal Web site refers to him as a "self-described casual geek" and a "Mac junkie."

His latest column acknowledges that he reported Verizon "appeared to be on board" before Apple's iPad introduction. He added that sources at Verizon told him the nation's largest wireless provider is "more interested in the lucrative iPhone contracts."

Morris also noted that the two companies remain in talks to bring both the iPhone and iPad to the Verizon network this year, when the exclusive contract between Apple and AT&T expires. Morris said at this point he remains skeptical that a deal will happen.

"Of course 'still talking' doesn't mean anything," he wrote. "It would be ridiculous to think these companies aren't still talking: that's what big companies do. To be fair, these talks are very much in keeping with reports from Wall Street analysts who expect some Apple/Verizon partnership announcement this year. But I'll believe it when I see it."

Last week, when Apple introduced the iPad, it also announced no-contract data plans from AT&T, running $15 per month for 250MB of data, or $30 per month for unlimited access. The plans will also offer free access to AT&T's nationwide hotspots. Typically, cell phone companies charge $60 per month for their mobile data-only plans.

As a contract-free purchase, users can buy a 3G-enabled version of the iPad starting at $629. The AT&T network access can be purchased — or canceled — at any time directly from the iPad. Though the device ships unlocked, due to hardware limitations it will only have access to AT&T's 3G data network in the U.S.

Prior to last week's iPad unveiling, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook defended AT&T in his company's quarterly earnings conference call. He called AT&T a "great partner," and said most customers have had a positive experience with the carrier.

Cook also downplayed speculation that the iPhone would inevitably be offered on multiple carriers in all countries. He said so far Apple has selected nations where they believe a multi-carrier system would happen anyhow.

"I don't want to imply that would happen in every market or that we are headed that way in every market," Cook said.