Apple's U.S. Carrier Arrangements for iPhone and Tablet Remain Muddled

With Apple's major media event scheduled for tomorrow, the company's plans for wireless carrier arrangements in the U.S. for the iPhone and tablet device remain unclear, with reports coming down on all sides of the issue.

Regarding the iPhone, AT&T has long been thought to hold exclusivity in the U.S. through mid-2010, although a recent report has claimed that it will be losing its exclusivity at Apple's media event tomorrow. Claims of a Verizon-compatible iPhone have also fed the hype over new carrier arrangements coming in the very near future for the iPhone, although reports have differed over when such a launch could occur. In fact, just yesterday, an analyst claimed that T-Mobile will be the first to break AT&T's exclusivity this summer, with Verizon and Sprint having to wait until the fall.

The question of what carrier or carriers would offer wireless data access for Apple's tablet device, should it offer the connectivity as many expect, similarly remains shrouded in uncertainty. Reports dating back many months have claimed that Apple has been working with Verizon on the tablet project, with more recent reports continuing to hint at such a possibility. Boy Genius Report even reported yesterday that Verizon is holding a quarterly update meeting with its store managers tomorrow, with staff expected to view a "live webcast" scheduled for 1:00 PM Eastern time, coinciding with Apple's media event.

The tablet may not be a Verizon-exclusive, however, if other reports are correct. An analyst report earlier this month pointed to support for multiple carriers, with another article just last week claiming that Apple is in last-minute negotiations with both AT&T and Verizon over wireless access for the tablet. Daring Fireball's John Gruber, who has offered accurate information on Apple's plans in the past, has said that he believes the tablet may even be an AT&T exclusive, although a multi-carrier arrangement involving both AT&T and Verizon may be an option.

Despite all the months of rumor and speculation regarding the assumed impending end of AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone and Apple's carrier plans for its highly-anticipated tablet device, the picture remains unclear. Tomorrow's media event should certainly offer clarity to the situation with respect to the tablet, with many hoping that the company has news to share on the iPhone front as well.

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