Apple plans to manufacture an iPhone capable of running on Verizon's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal. A late-2010 production start would pave the road for Verizon to offer the iPhone in early 2011.
The Oct. 6 Journal report quotes unnamed people "briefed by Apple." Qualcomm will apparently build a key chip for the Verizon iPhone. In addition, Apple is reportedly working on the fifth-generation iPhone, although a timeframe for its release on Verizon remained "unclear."
Rumors have circulated for months that Apple intends to break its iPhone exclusivity with AT&T and release the smartphone on other carriers in the United States. In August, TechCrunch reported that Apple was in negotiations with manufacturers for a Verizon iPhone, again with a tentative launch date of early 2011.
"Sources with knowledge of this entire situation have assured me that Apple has submitted orders for millions of units of Qualcomm CDMA chipsets for a Verizon iPhone run due in December," read that Aug. 8 TechCrunch posting. "This production run would likely be for a January launch, and I'd bet the phone is nearly 100 [percent] consistent with the current iPhone 4 (with a fixed insulator on the antenna)."
For its part, AT&T seemed ready to lose its exclusive lock on the iPhone. "We believe offering a wide variety of handsets reduces dependence on any single handset as these products evolve," the carrier wrote in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing for the quarter ended June 30. "In addition, offering a number of attractive handsets on an exclusive basis distinguishes us from our competitors."
The filing's mention of "dependence on any single handset" is assumed to be an iPhone reference.
Over the summer, Barclays Capital analyst James Ratcliffe suggested that, while the user base for a Verizon iPhone would be huge, it wouldn't necessarily come as a result of cannibalizing AT&T customers.
The "iPhone would be a plus for Verizon, but not a seismic industry change, given the relative stickiness of smartphone customers," Ratcliffe wrote in his June 22 research note. "[The] primary source of Verizon iPhone [subscribers] would be pent-up demand by existing Verizon [subscribers]."
Ratcliffe predicted that between 500,000 and 1 million AT&T customers would switch to Verizon's iPhone, but the number of Verizon subscribers would only increase by a net total of 900,000 in 2011.
Other analysts have suggested that T-Mobile will receive the iPhone first, since the carrier relies on the same GSM network standard as does AT&T.
Verizon executives have previously termed the iPhone's migration onto their network "inevitable."