How the carrier kept a lid on one of the biggest announcements of the year

Like it or not, the Verizon iPhone deal ranks in the top mobile/wireless tech stories of the year so far, along with the the Nokia/Windows Phone partnership and AT&T's planned purchase of T-Mobile USA. And while speculation about all the aforementioned deals existed before they were officially announced, neither of the latter two captured the same amount of media attention in their lead-ups or provided as much fodder for water-cooler office conversations as the “Big Red” iPhone.

Now, thanks to Adriana Lee at TechnoBuffalo, we're offered a behind-the-scenes view into the Verizon iPhone deal via an unnamed Verizon source.

Six months before the January announcement of the iPhone (right around the time AT&T was rolling out the iPhone 4), select staffers were field-testing Verizon's network connectivity at Apple stores across the country. 

But the few Verizon employees that actually received CDMA iPhones before the official announcement were entrusted with the devices only two weeks prior. Before they could begin using them, though, the staffers had to sign and fax four-page non-disclosure agreements from Apple. And, in order to make sure the devices weren't lost or in the wrong hands, they required the staffers to text a secret 12-digit PIN to a dedicated phone number every 12 hours. (If it makes you think of Desmond and Locke in the hatch on LOST, you aren't the only one.)

Beyond these select staffers and top-level executives, no other Verizon employees had prior knowledge about the company's iPhone announcement. In fact, during internal communications, it was referred to as project "ACME," and "iPhone" was never spoken.

Still, the deal remained buzzworthy in the media and was considered by some to be "the worst-kept secret" in the mobile industry. It wasn't a question of, "if," but "when?" Lee points out that even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal referred to it as a sure thing, before finally being announced officially on January 11 — just two days after CES.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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