Fortune Reports Verizon iPhone in early 2011 a done deal

When Verizon announced it would begin selling the iPad in its stores, albeit with a MiFi hotspot device for 3G connectvity, we said that this was the final signal, that after all the other signs earlier this year, Verizon would be getting the iPhone in early 2011. Still, there has been no official word.

We still don’t have it, but we have the next best thing: Fortune, in an interview piece with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, says it has confirmed that a Verizon iPhone will be released in early 2011.

Earlier signals that a Verizon iPhone were coming included the following big sign” AT&T’s “generosity” with giving its customers early upgrades to the iPhone 4 (which we noted would lock them in for two more years). That to us, was a key signal that Verizon would be getting the iPhone, and we said at the time we thought it pointed to an early 2011 release, as the customers who got the “early upgrade” package were those whose contracts would allow an upgrade anytime in 2010.

As we’ve said before, however, despite the common belief by end users that Verizon’s reputedly better network would solve the issues with the iPhone, which has seemingly brought AT&T’s network to its knees, that’s not necessarily a sure thing:

As noted, wireless data usage on the device is a major burden on AT&T’s (T) network; iPhone users who complain about AT&T service don’t always realize how much they contribute to the strain, partly because the iPhone persistently reaches out to AT&T’s towers, switches, and computers to grab data. While Seidenberg wouldn’t comment on the iPhone specifically, he and Lowell McAdam, his operating chief and heir apparent, seem confident the Verizon network will hold up. McAdam points out that Verizon already carries a data hog of a phone, the Motorola Droid (which runs on Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system), and that the average Droid user consumes more data than the average iPhone user.

Fortune also reported that Apple CEO Steve Jobs voiced concerns over CDMA in the past, including the fact that it doesn’t work in nearly as many countries as GSM does. At the same time, the story confirmed prior rumors: the first CDMA-based iPhone model on will “probably” not be dual-mode, which means it won’t be a “World Phone” with a SIM for roaming globally, as some other CDMA phones have.

It most likely won’t support Verizon’s nascent LTE network, either. That, however, makes a lot of sense. Apple hasn’t necessarily been a trend-setter with iPhone hardware; most will recall that the iPhone’s first generation didn’t even include 3G, although it wasn’t that new.

It will be interesting to see how the introduction of a Verizon iPhone will affect Android sales. Of course, as we’ve said before, Verizon is one network in one country. It will also be interesting to see if the rumors and stories about a Verizon iPhone will affect holiday smartphone sales, as consumers wait for the announcement of a phone that’s probably the most desired of all, even if it’s not official.