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Will the AT&T and Verizon iPhones Be Playing Leapfrog?

The iPhone is finally coming to Verizon. (For specs and our post from the announcement today in New York, click here.)

But the timing is somewhat awkward. In fact, it seems we could be headed for a leapfrogging update schedule, where new versions of the iPhone could likely hit AT&T’s network months before Verizon’s.

In keeping with the pace of prior releases, the iPhone 5 (possible leaked images of which we recently scrutinized here) will probably be available sometime in the middle of 2011. It’s likely to continue to use GSM technology, and probably won’t use LTE technology.

What does all this mean? Consider this scenario: an iPhone 5 arrives in six months–but it’s not compatible with Verizon’s technology. In all likelihood, Verizon could have to wait until sometime in 2012 to get an iPhone 5 made to fit Verizon.

That puts things on a funny development timeline. The cycle could repeat itself with the iPhone 6, and so on. And so consumers could continually be faced with the choice: 1) get a Verizon iPhone that might have a more reliable network and a particularly neat bell/whistle (the WiFi hotspot capability we mentioned earlier)–but that might be eclipsed by a new version soon? Or 2) Get (or stay with) an AT&T iPhone in the hopes that you can have access to the next-gen iPhone sooner than on other networks.

Apple is all about uniformity–that’s often Steve Jobs’s selling point for why he thinks the iPhone will win out over the Droid, which is all over the place (in more than one sense of the term). Which makes today’s announcement, and the update timeline it appears to set up, a bit awkward–and uncharacteristic, in a sense, of Apple.DZ