December 13, 2010, 7:09 PM —
It's been another busy and interesting day when it comes to speculation about Apple's relationship with Verizon – both in terms of the carrier getting a CDMA version of the iPhone early next year and in terms of potential expansion of the relationship beyond that.
First off, the news about a Verizon iPhone. While speculation's been brewing for months about a CDMA iPhone 4 to deployed on the largest U.S. carrier (really there's been rumors and reports for years, but I'll stick to the more recent ones), a recent analyst report noted that Verizon was willing to make concessions and put Apple in "the driver's seat" of negotiations in return for promising that exclusivity wouldn't expand beyond Verizon and AT&T, the current exclusive U.S. carrier.
More recently, reports of Verizon's smartphone sales have indicated that the company may need to offer the iPhone if it wants to remain the largest U.S. mobile carrier. Sales of BlackBerries for Verizon have slipped significantly and while Android has become the lead platform for Verizon, it is becoming accepted wisdom that this is only because Android handsets are the most iPhone-like devices that Verizon can offer. If true, then it would certainly be in the company's interest to try and secure as exclusive a deal as possible and to give into Apple's demands rather than risk Apple walking away from the table and offering the iPhone to Sprint and T-Mobile.
In more recent and significant reports, a Verizon iPhone would support LTE, Verizon's 4G-branded service, which went live just over a week ago. So far, the service is limited to two USB modems and the company has yet to offer a smartphone that can take advantage of the faster connection. Reports indicate that an LTE/CDMA iPhone would be Verizon's first 4G phone and that it would be marketed as the only LTE iPhone available (whether this will be a U.S. specific or global marketing push isn't clear).
Launching a 4G iPhone along with expanding U.S. carrier options and potentially launching a CDMA iPhone in other global markets (including Asian countries like India, South Korea, and Japan, where there is a sizable potential market for such a device) would be a big coup for Apple. It would open up a lot of new customers and it would launch a truly next-generation handset. The sticking point to my mind is that would be a major device introduction – much bigger than a 3G iPhone for Verizon (using CDMA/EVDO for voice and data).