Analyst: Don’t Hold Your Breath for Verizon iPhone

Following reports that Apple may be working on a CDMA-based iPhone for Verizon, UBS analyst Maynard Um is saying that’s not likely — at least not this year. Instead, he thinks if Apple is working on a CDMA-compatible iPhone, it’s for the Chinese market.

“While a new iPhone (update to the 3GS) in June is in line with our expectations, we believe a launch of a CDMA-based phone with Verizon this year is unlikely but believe a CDMA phone could be launched with other operators later in the year,” Mr. Um said. He added that China Telecom and KDDI are possible carriers for a CDMA-based iPhone.

Currently, Verizon relies on CDMA for its cell network in the U.S., while other carriers — including AT&T — rely on the GSM technology used in the iPhone. Apple struck an exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T, and despite ongoing rumors that the Cupertino-based company is ready to work with other carriers in the U.S., hasn’t brought any other cell service providers onboard.

If Apple is developing a CDMA version of the iPhone, Mr. Um thinks its more likely the phone will be built for China’s proprietary version of CDMA, and won’t include compatibility for Verizon’s network.

Looking forward towards the next iPhone update, expected to hit around June, Mr. Um sees several new features coming to the combination iPod and smartphone. “Based on our checks, new and enhanced features of the new iPhones to be released in June may potentially be based around back touch (will allow touch capability from both the front and back of the phone), HD playback and recording, a 5 megapixel camera, potentially higher NAND storage (64Gb model), increased battery life, AMOLED screen (better viewing experience), and new applications,” he said.

Mr. Um also expects the new iPhone models will hit the US$199 and $299 price point, and that the current iPhone 3GS will replace the iPhone 3G at the $99 price point.

Mr. Um is maintaining his “Buy” rating and $280 target price for Apple’s stock. Apple is currently trading at $236.91, up 4.52 (1.94%).