Apple iPhone to Verizon drumbeat picks up (again)

A version of Apple's iPhone that would be compatible with Verizon Wireless' network will reportedly start shipping in the fourth quarter. The possibility is yet another reason to freeze a smartphone upgrade.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

A version of Apple's iPhone that would be compatible with Verizon Wireless' network will reportedly start shipping in the fourth quarter.

According to DigiTimes, contract equipment manufacturer Pegatron Technology is using its plants in Shanghai to manufacture CDMA iPhones. Verizon Wireless' network is CDMA based. The DigiTimes report just mentions a CDMA iPhone so technically Sprint could also be an end destination, but most signs point to Verizon Wireless.

This report comes amid AT&T's high-profile systems breakdown with Apple iPhone 4 preorders. The DigiTimes report may add up. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that a CDMA iPhone was in the works and headed to Verizon.

Verizon-iPhone stories are a dime a dozen. Reports about Apple and Verizon teaming up have been around for years, but so far haven't panned out. Meanwhile, AT&T continues to hold iPhone exclusivity. And much to the chagrin of WWDC attendees, Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't announce any plans to bring the iPhone to Verizon.

So why should we give the DigiTimes report any play? Simply put, the tea leaves point to an iPhone coming to Verizon. To wit:

  • AT&T's move to allow for early iPhone 4 upgrades is not only extremely generous---as Jobs would put it---it indicates that the telecom provider is trying to lock up as many customers as possible before exclusivity disappears.
  • Verizon officials have repeatedly said that their network could handle iPhone-ish data demand.:
  • An iPhone launch in the first quarter would match up well with Verizon's LTE 4G network rollout. A CDMA iPhone could be dual-mode 3G/4G.
  • And Apple could double the addressable market for the iPhone. Let's face it. If you haven't moved to AT&T for the iPhone yet you aren't going to.

It all adds up to a first quarter iPhone launch with an announcement timed around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Or if Verizon wants to screw up AT&T's fourth quarter, it could make an announcement about the iPhone in November. I doubt Apple would torch AT&T with a fourth quarter announcement---that would freeze holiday sales---so expect an announcement to upstage CES.

In the meantime, Verizon Wireless will continue to be Droid happy and do quite well.

What does this mean if you're a smartphone buyer right now? I think it means you sit and wait with your existing phone. My contract is up shortly at Verizon Wireless and I'm just going to hang and see how these smartphone wars shake out. I like the sounds of the latest Motorola Droid. I'm open to the iPhone on another network as well as the HTC Incredible. Hell, even the upcoming BlackBerry from Research in Motion could be a contender. And while I'm at it I may check out the latest Windows Phone 7 devices.

Add it up and there's no reason to buy a smartphone right now. The innovation curve dictates that you'll have buyer's remorse in 5 minutes anyway. It's hard to jump in when the latest and greatest devices come every other week.

Jason Perlow sums up this shopping conundrum well. Speaking about the rapid smartphone upgrade cycle, Perlow writes:

From a consumer perspective, this seems rather frustrating, as the constant “what’s coming next?” factor is always in play, and if you are someone who is at the end of a contract cycle or between contracts, it’s always a question of when the right time is to upgrade or to jump on a new platform.

Bottom line: While increased chatter about the iPhone coming to Verizon Wireless is notable it's likely to freeze a smartphone upgrade just a bit longer.

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