Jean-Louis Gassee: Did Verizon pay Apple to share the ‘Hi, Speed’ stage?

From Gassée’s “Apple Perplexing Verizon Promotion” in this week’s Monday Note:

After the basic 5G pitch, Tim Cook called Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s CEO, to the stage. A Swedish-born executive with decades of industry experience, Vestberg got an unusual amount of stage time, about four minutes of the 70-minute event, which he used extoll Verizon’s infrastructure and collaboration with Apple, culminating in the proclamation that 5G has finally arrived:

Vestberg is an articulate pitchman and did a commendable job in presenting Verizon’s collaboration with Apple as the kind epoch-making event Cook referred to, but we can be sure that the other carriers depicted in the world partnership chart were less than charmed that Apple gave so much airtime to Verizon and its Chairman and CEO.

Surely, say some pundits, there must have been some kind of quid pro quo… Looking at a possible financial consideration for Vestberg’s airtime, Ben Thompson, a long-time industry analyst, wrote that it felt “awfully sordid”. John Gruber, a well-informed and relevant (a rare combination) Apple observer reacted thus:

“…it just felt so gratuitous. I don’t know what Verizon paid Apple for this slot in the event, but it must have been a fortune. Good god would I love to be privy to the negotiations between Apple, Verizon, and AT&T for this”…

The question remains: Did Apple really take money from Verizon to give its CEO four minutes on stage at the iPhone 12 event? I don’t think Apple is in such dire straights. Instead of a payoff, this might have been a payback against other carriers who failed to invest enough in their 5G network updates. Failure to invest in 5G networking would negatively impact the sales of new 5G iPhones. In this scenario, Apple would compensate for the underinvestment of carrier X or Y by heavily promoting Verizon and its better 5G network. Apple would be doing what it needs to do to stimulate the sales of 5G iPhones.

My take: While Verizon was investing in its network, AT&T was putting its money into WarnerMedia (formerly known as Warner Communications, AOL Time Warner and Time Warner). That’s why I switched. Glad I did.


  1. Bart Yee said:
    My beef with ATT, even though I use them, is their misleading “5Ge” or “5G Evolution” network marketing which has no 5G in it at all – it’s 4G LTE with some massaging to push 4G LTE to near theoretical speed limit of 40 mbs. It’s dishonest and disingenuous, leading iPhone owners to think they have some sort of 5G already. That makes Apple look bad and hurts its reputation.

    So I have ZERO problem wit Apple inviting Verizon to tout its 5G networks, and ZERO problem if Apple negotiated and accepted money for literally a 4 minute “advertisement” from a partner who will promote selling iPhones.
    Heck, Apple probably should edit specific country videos of the event and swing it over to carrier partners in Korea (oh the deliciousness of Apple using S Korea 5G networks built on mostly Samsung equipment), China’s theee main networks, Japan’s DOCOMO and SoftBank to promote their networks instead of just showing the major names onscreen. I think Apple could easily have asked $1-5M or much more for that privilege.

    October 19, 2020
  2. David Emery said:
    Methinks PED forgot about Verizon Media, and its particularly aggressive surveillance network.

    October 19, 2020
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. Failure to invest in 5G networking would negatively impact the sales of new 5G iPhones.”

    The above comment is what keeps me up at night relative to the success of 5G forthcoming sales. The state where I spend time has no 5G coverage anywhere. Nada! The community where I reside does not have comprehensive 4G LTE. 4G LTE coverage is spotty in my area, even in urban communities.

    The majority of consumers upgrading are not cognizant fully of the ramifications involved in quality 5G coverage, and thus will upgrade anyway. Consumers who are cognizant of what Apple’s new 5G iPhone 12 offering should provide and fail to receive it after upgrading, will be disappointed. Carriers have to get their act together. Carriers who do should be singled out for their accomplishments to the possible detriment of other carriers who talk 5G service up, but fail to deliver it fully.

    October 19, 2020
  4. Fred Stein said:
    Ugh, speculation. Repeating rumors and speculation from others.

    Heck, I’ll jump into the cesspool and speculate as well. Apple wanted to push the other US carriers to invest in 5G and to promote the iPhone 12 or risk losing customers. So far, the US carriers are promoting the iPhone 12. But that would have happened anyway.

    October 19, 2020
    • David Emery said:
      Would a Verizon iPhone 12 work on everyone else’s network if/when they catch up? Or if I buy a Verizon-based iPhone, am I doomed to Verizon’s network (which was the case previously…)?

      October 19, 2020
      • Robert Varipapa said:
        Should work for all networks

        October 19, 2020
  5. Robert Varipapa said:
    I’m switching from Verizon to ATT to get their free iPhone 12 promotion. I have 7 lines on my family plan and will be switching the whole gang. Had ATT a few years ago and they were fine (actually better in some areas – I think GSM worked better than Verizon’s CDMA – do they still use that?)

    PS: Neither ATT or Verizon are angels, both now trying to exclude TMobile from the C-band auction in December:

    “The simple explanation for the current predicament is that AT&T and Verizon didn’t prioritize mid-band spectrum as much as T-Mobile and Sprint—AT&T, for instance, spent $81 billion in 2018 to acquire Time Warner in a deal that hasn’t exactly panned out, while Verizon in February 2020 authorized a plan to repurchase 100 million shares of common stock to appease shareholders.”

    October 19, 2020

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