The iPhone is ready to start seeing other people.

At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, Verizon Wireless announced what many had expected for a long time: beginning in February the iPhone will be available in the U.S. through Verizon.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless’ president and chief operating officer, called it a “great day” for wireless customers across the U.S.

“Today, two industry innovators are coming together to deliver something consumers have been hungry for for years. We are bringing to market the fruit of our strategic partnership with a giant in the market, and that is Apple,” said McAdam.

The partnership had been rumored for years, and anticipation of an announcement had heightened in recent months.

And, in fact, McAdam said Verizon and Apple began conversations about a partnership in 2008, a year after the iPhone debuted. “We spent a year in extensive testing and design to make sure it was up to our standard,” he said.

Many had expected a Verizon/Apple partnership because many iPhone users have complained about AT&T’s service. Specifically, complaints have focused on an unusually-high rate of dropped calls, especially in congested areas such as New York.

Another barrier to iPhone sales has been the fact that many cellphone customers didn’t want to switch to AT&T from the service to which they were already contracted.

AT&T issued a statement shortly after the announcement: “For iPhone users who want the fastest speeds, the ability to talk and use apps at the same time, and unsurpassed global coverage, the only choice is AT&T."

The iPhone 4 on Verizon will not let users make calls and surf the Web at the same time.

Verizon Wireless said the iPhone4 will be available on the Verizon Wireless network beginning on Thursday, Feb. 10. According to a statement released by the company, qualified Verizon Wireless customers will be given the exclusive opportunity to pre-order iPhone 4 online on Feb.3, ahead of general availability. The company said the 16GB model will sell for $199.99 and the 32GB for $299.99 with a new two-year customer agreement.

“We are pleased to introduce millions of wireless users to the industry leading iPhone 4 on the nation’s most reliable network,” McAdam said in the statement. “This is an important step for the industry as two great companies join forces to give wireless customers one of the most important technological additions to the mobile landscape this century.”

Tim Cook, Apple’s COO, added in the statement: “Verizon Wireless customers have told us they can't wait to get their hands on iPhone 4, and we think they are going to love it. We have enormous respect for the company Verizon has built and the loyalty they have earned from their customers.”

The iPhone 4 features a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, HD video recording, Apple’s A4 chip, a 3-axis gyro and a glass and stainless steel design. The company said the iPhone 4 also comes with iOS 4, which has a number of features including multitasking, folders, Game Center, AirPlay® and AirPrint wireless printing. Customers will also have access to the App Store.

Verizon said the iPhone 4 also would include new "Personal Hotspot" capabilities allowing customers to use the smartphone to connect up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices.

Apple's contract with Verizon is not exclusive but is multiyear, officials said.

Technology analyst Rob Enderle said on the FOX Business Network just after the announcement that said the partnership should help Apple “chase the No.1 spot,” referring to Google’s Android phone.

Many AT&T customers can be expected to “migrate [to Verizon] when their contracts [with AT&T] expire,” said Enderle, primarily due to the dropped calls issue.

Asked whether the data increase on Verizon’s network will pose a challenge to that company similar to the one experience by AT&T, Enderle said it won’t be clear for several months, at least until after new customers sign up and Verizon’s iPhone network is up and running.