Analyst: iPhone to Go Multi-carrier Next Year in U.S.

U.S. iPhone users may get to start choosing their carrier in 2010, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. He expects Apple will end its exclusive deal with AT&T by next summer and start offering the iPhone through multiple carriers, just as it does in several other countries.

Apple's combination iPod and smartphone is currently available only through AT&T in the United States, limiting the number of users to because many consumers aren't interested in switching to the carrier. Offering the iPhone through multiple carriers could let Apple expand its iPhone user base even more because fewer people would have to switch carriers or break contracts.

If the company does add more cell carriers next year, it could see a substantial boost in iPhone sales. According to Mr. Munster, the iPhone holds about 40 percent of the market in France thanks in part to multiple carrier deals. In the U.S., however, Apple's smartphone market share is limited to the mid teens.

Adding in additional carriers into its fold next summer makes sense for Apple, too, since that would likely coincide with the release of new iPhone models. Apple has so far released each new version of the iPhone in the June/July window.

[Thanks to The Loop for the heads up.]