WSJ: Verizon iPhone On Way for 2011

Guess what? We have a new rumor about an iPhone coming to Verizon, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper is reporting that Apple has developed an iPhone built for CDMA networks, the kind of network operated by Big Red, and that Apple will begin producing it late in 2010 for release through Verizon in early 2011.

The Journal’s sources are unnamed people “briefed by Apple,” and those same sources said that Apple was designing the product around the current iPhone 4 form-factor. Qualcomm is providing the CDMA chip for the handset.

This report is in keeping with many rumors this year about Apple working on a CDMA version of the iPhone, a phone for which Qualcomm is the provider of the chip. Most of those reports have intimated or explicitly stated that such a device was being developed for sale for Verizon’s network,

For instance, the same reporters — Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ting-I Tsai — behind today’s story reported in March 2010 that Apple would release a CMDA iPhone for Verizon’s network in the Summer of 2010, the Summer that just ended with a Verizon CMDA iPhone.

On September 22nd, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Jeffry Fidacaro told clients virtually the same thing as today’s story, that Apple was building millions of CDMA iPhones for Verizon at the end of 2010. In August of this year, Daring Fireball reported that Apple was working on testing a CDMA iPhone for a January launch. Going back to April of 2009, USA Today reported that Apple was in talks with Verizon to make a CDMA iPhone. (There are many more such stories in our archives, too.)

This seems an propitious time, however, to point out that the world’s largest CDMA network is China Mobile’s network in China. China Mobile has more customers than the U.S. has people, and Apple has a five year exclusivity agreement in the U.S. with AT&T.

That said, it’s not known when the five year agreement actually began — the iPhone went on sale in June of 2007, but it could have started the moment the two companies signed an agreement for AT&T to sell the device, and it’s not known when that happened. Many analysts have speculated that the agreement will expire as early as 2010 (this year) or 2011. 2012 would be the obvious maximum time frame for such an agreement.

In recent years, rumors about Apple products that have many and varied sources have largely borne out. The iPad, for instance, leaked like a sieve before Apple announced it, and many aspects of the device’s form factor were all but commonly known. The iPhone 4 also had many details about its form factor leaked, and that was before Gizmodo got its hands on a prototype.

Such precedent lends weight to the idea of a CDMA-based iPhone. The question of whether it’s for Verizon or another market is not likely to be answered until we get an official announcement from Cupertino.