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Verizon nabs the iPhone; will farmers follow suit?

Jeff Caldwell 01/11/2011 @ 11:23am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

A rumor that had been floating around mobile technology conversations for months was confirmed with the announcement Tuesday morning that Verizon will begin offering the latest generation of Apple's smartphone, the iPhone 4, early next month.

That means the device will now be available to farmers in areas where they've previously been unavailable because of insufficient service and reception. Verizon's network stretches through many more rural areas than other providers, farmers and technology developers say.

"I think it's going to be a positive for agriculture," says Camden, Indiana, farmer and mobile technology developer Neil Mylet. "I can't tell you how many farmers or just my friends here in these rural communities don't have AT&T service, but have Verizon. They're thrilled. This gives them another option for a mobile interface that fits their needs."

Mylet, who owns and operates the technology company LoadOut Technologies (www.loadouttechnologies.com), adds it will take some time for Verizon customers to meet the demand for the device, of which company officials say they expect to sell between 10 and 12 million.

Will Tuesday's iPhone announcement cause a total shift in smartphone choices among Verizon users? Though he expects a lot of farmers to opt for the devices in the future, it's more of the addition of another choice in a segmenting industry. The Android (Droid) smartphone platform, for example -- typically considered the primary competitor of the iPhone -- will remain a strong player, Mylet says.

"Droid obviously has a strong following," he says. "I think the Droid will sustain and time will tell."

Then, there's always the cost issue. Neither Droids nor iPhones are cheap, but the new iPhone 4, with its price tag ranging from $199 to $299, could scare off some consumers because of price alone. But, most farmers make the smartphone-buying decision based on different factors; namely, it's more of a business expense, Mylet says. That should make it easier for some farmers -- if using it for business purposes on their farms -- to absorb the cost of the device.

"Look at the price of these mobile devices. Just because they're out there doesn't mean everybody's going to afford one," Mylet adds. "Agriculture's a little different in terms of making those purchase decisions, since they can be used as business tools, too."


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