The Wall Street Journal is just barely reporting that a CDMA iPhone will be introduced this fall, possibly September, and that Apple’s exclusive relationship with AT&T (s t) “appears set to end.” According to “people briefed by the company” (presumably Apple (s aapl)), the CDMA iPhone will be one of two released, with the GSM model “likely to be thinner and have a faster processor.”
While the rumor itself appears thin, looking at it in a larger context gives good reason to believe your next iPhone might not be chained to AT&T.
Chris Foresman at Ars Technica distills the biggest of those reasons into its graphical essence.
According to AdMob, Android (s goog) is on the verge of passing the iPhone OS, at least on smartphones. Adding in traffic to Mobile Internet Devices like the iPod touch, which Apple dominates, probably puts Apple up by double digits. Still, Android is the biggest threat to the iPhone right now. Apple needs new markets, and what market is bigger than Big Red?
Verizon (s vz) had 87 million subscribers at the end of 2009, compared to some 85 million for AT&T. Nielsen estimated the number of U.S. iPhone users as of 6.4 million last April, up from 2.1 million in 2008, meaning the current number of AT&T iPhones easily exceeds 10 million. Add Verizon as a iPhone carrier, and it’s a zero-sum game in the millions with the iPhone taking from Android.
Finally, the source of the rumor lends credence to it: not the “people briefed,” but the Wall Street Journal. As John Martellaro, former Senior Marketing Manager at Apple, writing for the Mac Observer notes, sometimes “Apple has a need to let information out, unofficially.” In his essay on controlled leaks, Martellaro cites the iPad leak in early January, which turned out to be true. That rumor was published in the Wall Street Journal and one of the authors was Yukari Iwatani, the author of the Verizon iPhone rumor today.
A Verizon iPhone makes sense for Verizon, Apple, long-suffering AT&T iPhone users, and even AT&T. Nothing reduces network strain like millions of customers taking their business elsewhere.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Why Apple Should Choose Sprint Before Verizon Wireless