That old faithful iPhone rumor, about a Verizon CDMA version of Apple's wonderphone, has surfaced again, to the delight of AT&T iPhone users and wanna-haves. But will it actually be any better in terms of service quality?
This time it's the Wall Street Journal at the heart of the rumor, and as well as being a more reputable publication than some other sources, we've already speculated that Apple may be using the WSJ as a deliberately leaky news valve. The actual published story says little more than, "There's a new iPhone coming in the middle of 2010, and it'll be better than its predecessors" — easily believable if Apple sticks to its usual iPhone schedule and keeps its grip on the cutting edge of smartphone design.
So we kinda suspect that Apple may release a CDMA-compatible iPhone version after its next-gen refresh launch, which will probably be sometime in June. The likely date for a VZW iPhone is probably several months after this, given that we suspect AT&T's got its exclusivity with Apple sewn up for most, if not all, of 2010.
The Verizon faithful, who've been reluctant to switch carriers just to get the hugely desirable iPhone will be delighted when it arrives. AT&T haters, who love the iPhone but are bound to what they see as a poor-quality network provider (based on network traffic jams and broken promises) will also be delighted at the chance to leap ship. Apple will likely see a bump in iPhone sales too.
But this could actually be a boon for AT&T, too. It sounds like backwards logic—AT&T would lose some revenue, sure, but those users who do depart for Verizon are probably the customers least satisfied with AT&T and probably represent users AT&T could do without (in terms of bad-mouth PR and so on.) Not all AT&T iPhoners would quit either, and those that remained would represent a lighter data burden on AT&T's 3G network—which it's been busy working to reinforce, and which is due to get an extra stress anyway from the iPad. The upshot: More satisfied customers, who may remain loyal to the company for longer.
Meanwhile. Verizon's grid has never been tested by the huge gush of data that millions of new iPhone subscribers would request from it, and there will be inevitable failures. AT&T also now has expertise in activating Apple's phones on sale, whereas Verizon doesn't (assuming Apple sells future phones the same way.) CDMA phones also aren't useable in too many places around the World, and that's something frequent-traveler iPhone users need to remember. The result of all this: Verizon's reputation could be slightly tarnished, while AT&T rubs its hands together gleefully.
In conclusion then, it seems like Apple's designing a CDMA iPhone (with the WSJ even speculating that this version has its own manufacturer—Pegatron, who make components for Asus too) and that it'll be arriving for U.S. cell-phone users sometime late this year (or possibly right at the start of 2011.) We wouldn't be doing our jobs, though, if we didn't close by reminding you that this is all still a rumor. Apple's expressed nothing but delight at AT&T's iPhone partnership, so we wouldn't expect to see this relationship dissolve disastrously quickly. And a twinned iPhone architecture is a very un-Apple way to proceed—it only reluctantly built the "China brick" version without Wi-Fi to comply with Chinese law, since the market is so temptingly huge.
To keep up with this news and more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too.