The article Verizon iPhone second glance: exclusivity farce a fireable offense? suggests that having ATT as the only US cell service provider allowed to sell iPhone for so long was a mistake. Meh.
Not only did ATT sign up with Apple using mutually beneficial terms when nobody else would, they extended the contract at least once. The phones have been selling well despite ATT’s renown service problems in some metro areas. (And perhaps iOS loaded the service down a bit more than it should, I really don’t know.)
Google’s arrangements with a variety of phone manufacturers and service providers does not give Google the same amount of quality and experience control that Apple currently enjoys. You aren’t guaranteed to get OS updates, and the phone may be loaded with “goodies” in the fashion similar to typical brand-name PCs, but the phones are actually less expensive.
More to this particular point is that the iCEO remembers which companies have been honestly enthusiastic about working with Apple, and those…that weren’t. That exclusive contract extension with ATT may have been less about the favorable terms worked out with ATT, and more about reinforcing the ground rules with other companies. Verizon wanted iPhone a while ago using industry standard terms, but Apple chose to work with ATT instead.