The iPhone has finally come to Verizon.  To some this move is trivial, if not meaningless, while to others it marks the end of an era (or beginning, depending on who you ask) where the world’s most in-demand piece of hardware was held hostage by a lousy carrier standing passively by as the bigger and better Verizon stamped itself as the most reliable cell provider on the market.

So, time to switch carriers or cash in that upgrade right away, huh?  Not so fast.

The past 15 or so months have been rather strange for Steve Jobs and his Apple supergiant.  Just when it looked like the beloved iPhone was impossible to be bested, the folks in Mountain View, Calif. birthed what would become a jagged thorn on Jobs’ side: Android.

Since being incorporated by fellow dot-com superpower, Google, Android has become the first (and only) legitimate competition to Apple for smartphone supremacy.  A powerful operating system similar in mold to that used on the iPhone, it has quickly risen in popularity due to its affordability, availability across carriers and its open-source design.

Open-source refers to the practice of making a product’s materials open to developers, allowing for much more customizability and variety among devices.  This is contrary to Apple’s philosophy of keeping a tight hold on the design of the iPhone, only allowing for certain changes and additions of which it approves.

Critics of the iPhone believe that it is because of this distinction that the touted device will ultimately lose out to the burgeoning Android, of which several phones running some version of the operating system are released monthly across each of the major U.S. cellular providers.  Apple, on the other hand, only releases a new version of the iPhone about once per year, and until recently, has been limited to only one network.

If this is how the race continues to be run, Apple will lose out fast.

Leaving behind AT&T and its shoddy service is a step in the right direction, but it won’t be enough by itself to stave off Android.  Apple has been reluctant to reduce prices despite its competition, but will need to rely on something more if it wishes to remain the cream of the crop.

Fortunately, Apple still has a lot going for it.

For all Android has going for it with it’s open-source capability, it is held back equally by its wide diversity.  Application developers, which are vital to a smartphone’s success, have much more trouble designing apps that will work cross-platform, that is, across each of the different mobile phones running Android.  As the number of Android-ready phones continues to grow, the ease of developing new apps that work on each will decrease inversely.

It is also worth considering that Verizon’s network might not be as fit to utilize the full potential of the iPhone – or at least not yet.  While it certainly blows other carriers out of the water in terms of size and total coverage, its data network has been underwhelming at best.  AT&T has proven a slight edge in 3G speed and Verizon’s heralded 4G LTE network is only available in select markets and will likely include a price spike in the near future.

Throw in the inability to browse the web while talking and one might wonder why Verizon worked so hard to obtain the iPhone with such an ill-equipped network to handle it.

Nevertheless, as far as Verizon is concerned, the iPhone 4 might as well be yesterday’s news.  With only marginal improvements over the previous 3GS, Verizon might just be banking on cashing in on the iPhone 5 which could surface as soon as this summer.

For the most bang for the buck, the iPhone is, for at least the time being, the best smartphone on the market.  The only question is how will Jobs proceed?

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