Rumors of a Verizon iPhone have landed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal Online. People briefed by Apple told the Wall Street Journal that Apple plans to produce CDMA-enabled iPhones, the kind that run on Verizon’s wireless network, later this year.
Despite similar rumors dragging on for years, it’s a good bet that Verizon iPhones will hit the market shortly after, say, early next year.
Yes, I’m aware of Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg’s comments last month that the iPhone is not coming to the wireless carrier anytime soon. “We don’t feel like we have an iPhone deficit,” he said. “We would love to carry it, but we have to earn it.”
Here’s the rub: By earning it, Seidenberg was talking about Verizon’s planned sweeping rollout of a 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network in the United States—the successor to 3G for data speed. Today, Verizon announced at the CTIA conference in San Francisco the launch of the 4G network in 38 major American cities covering 110 million people, or one-third of the U.S. population, by the end of the year.
We all know Apple’s penchant for dramatic entrances, and this sets the stage for a much-hyped, much-anticipated Verizon iPhone in early 2011.
More importantly, Apple really can’t wait any longer. Android smartphones have been rolling off the shelves in droves; Android sales surpassed iPhone sales for the first time last quarter. To be fair, it’s unlikely Apple really cares about Android outselling the iPhone.
Apple is probably more concerned about Android taking the bloom off the magical iPhone rose. Given the iPhone’s image as a technological wonder, it would be unwise for Apple to concede Verizon’s brand new, super-fast 4G network to Android.
And then there’s this tidbit in AT&T’s SEC filing in August: AT&T doesn’t expect to suffer a “material negative impact” from the end of exclusivity arrangements with handsets (which, of course, points to its iPhone exclusivity arrangement), adding, “such arrangements may not provide a competitive advantage over time, as the industry continues to introduce new devices and services.”
With AT&T clearly bracing for the end of its iPhone exclusivity arrangement, Verizon unveiling its 4G network today, and Android’s surprisingly rapid rise in the market—not to mention a world-class leak to the Wall Street Journal—all signs point to a Verizon iPhone coming soon.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at email@example.com.