Verizon iPhone Due Early 2011: Fortune

Verizon will carry the Apple iPhone starting in early 2011, according to unnamed sources speaking to Fortune magazine.

Apple's iPhone will arrive on Verizon Wireless in early 2011, another news outlet is asserting. That report, which appears in Fortune, adds to the swelling rumors that the smartphone will soon break its exclusive lock with carrier AT&T.

"Fortune has confirmed that a Verizon iPhone will be released in early 2011," reads the Oct. 29 article in that publication by Sarah Ellison, who goes on to paraphrase "people familiar" with the Verizon iPhone's development as terming the device "a fait accompli."

Fortune follows the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which insisted earlier in October that a Verizon iPhone will appear within the next few months. Both those publications cited unnamed sources.

"Verizon, sources say, will sell its own version of the iPhone 4, which will work on Verizon's CDMA-based 3G network," reads the article in Fortune. "Unfortunately for globetrotters, the first version of the phone likely won't be built to work outside the U.S.-it probably won't carry a special chip that can turn it into a -world phone.'"

Other rumors suggest that Apple is working on a special SIM card for the iPhone, which would allow customers to choose their own carrier at the point of purchase. Citing sources connected with European carriers, tech blog GigOm suggested in an Oct. 27 posting that Apple had chosen Gamalto to collaborate on the SIM cards.

An Apple-produced SIM card means the user's contract would also be with Apple, as opposed to a carrier. "Customers could go to an Apple store and check it out ... and walk through activation at the Genius Bar, instead of trying to do it on the Web," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research (TBRI), told eWEEK. "I can see this working in the U.S., and it would be a real game changer."

Hyers added: "The carriers currently have a stranglehold on phone distribution, but Apple really does have the heft, the ability, to shift the market."

Apple's iOS occupied some 24.2 percent of the smartphone market by August, holding a small lead over Android at 19.6 percent, according to comScore,. That represents a slight decline for Apple from 25 percent in April, and suggests that expanding the iPhone onto more carriers could help the company ease some of the competitive pressures poised by Google and others.

AT&T documents suggest the company is prepared to lose its exclusive grip on the iPhone. "We believe offering a wide variety of handsets reduces the 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."

At the time, pundits assumed that "dependence on any single handset" mention was a reference to the iPhone. Although Apple has remained characteristically silent in public about the porting of its flagship mobile product onto another carrier, executives from both Verizon and AT&T have been much more open about debating the potential merits and drawbacks of running the iPhone on their respective-and each other's-networks.