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Verizon Wireless has a bad case of iPhone envy, starting at the top. COO Jack Plating privately fumed to his minions in a company memo headlined "iWhatever" — of which Valleywag got a copy — that the iPhone is "yet another attempt to stay competitive with us." The problem with Plating's fit of pique? Beyond fuming about the iPhone, he doesn't have much to say. Instead, he counsels store workers to tout Verizon's network and its "18 multimedia devices." Sure, Verizon has 18 music phones. But — how to put it delicately? — they all suck, including the latest LG Chocolate.Granted, I haven't played with the new Chocolate, just the old one. But just from the photos and feature list, I can tell that Verizon and LG haven't changed it enough to make a difference. They haven't fixed the phone's unusable user interface, tiny screen, and annoying numeric keypad. Think sending text messages on the iPhone is annoying? With the Chocolate, you're back to thumbing your way through the alphabet. And then there are the numbers. LG has crowed about selling 6 million phones, worldwide, in its first year. But the iPhone has, according to reports, sold 1 million phones in five days. And that's just in the U.S. Here's how Plating closes his little pep talk, which he asks workers to regurgitate to potential customers not just on the job, but at "backyard barbecues":

I have no doubt that those customers who want a reliable service for their phone calls as well as a multimedia device will come to Verizon Wireless.

iWhatever, indeed. For those interested, here's the complete text of the memo:

Thursday June 28, 2007
Message From Jack Plating: iWhatever

Dear Employees,

A day hasn't gone by over the past two weeks when someone hasn't asked me what our response to the iPhone is. I meet each of these opportunities with enthusiasm, because the iPhone is simply a response to you and what Verizon Wireless has achieved.

Make mo mistake; AT&T's iPhone is yet another attempt to stay competitive with us. When Cingular purchased AT&T Wireless in 2004, they boasted nine million more customers than Verizon Wireless. Since then, Cingular launched a one-year exclusive Razr phone and an aggressive network quality ad campaign. In spite of those efforts, we shrunk their nine million lead to less than 1.5 million.

I'm not ready to dismiss the impact of the iPhone on Verizon Wireless. just like our competitor's past offerings, it will take hard work from all of us to turn this product introduction into an opportunity for Verizon Wireless. That means knowing our products, understanding why they are better, and communicating it to our customers, prospects, friends and colleagues.

The way I look at it is the devices we already have, and the ones to come, are better than anything AT&T can throw out there because of the network our devices are attached to. Our network is our first and most powerful advantage.

* The quality of the network service is the most important thing a customer should consider when purchasing a cell phone and no company can compare to our reliability. In the context of the iPhone, our data network speeds are more than twice as fast as the data service that will be available on the device.

While a device is only as good as the network it's on, I expect AT&T to ignore the network service completely and focus squarely on the device. In this area, too, we have an advantage — choice.

* We currently offer customers a choice of 18 multimedia devices — at various price points — that download music and surf the Web, wirelessly, at broadband speeds. Customers can choose from a wide range of device designs, colors and applications that best fit their needs.

I also expect a lot of the iPhone promotion to focus on music. In this area, too, we have an advantage — value.

* We have the best set of services in the marketplace. And, our new bundled offerings take the guess work out of enjoying the best services we offer. Our music service allows customers to manage their music any of three ways; side loading, downloading to a PC from our music store or over the air. Our new song ID service allows customers to identify a song using their handset and download the newly discovered music over-the-air — a capability that is unmatched in wireless.

Whether you are in a store, on the phone with a customer, or at a backyard barbecue, the charge is the same — know our products and talk about our network, choice and value. When we do, I have no doubt that those customers who want a reliable service for their phone calls as well as a multimedia device will come to Verizon Wireless.

Jack Plating
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer