Apple’s iPhone (s aapl) production is ramping up to levels that suggest it’s “increasingly becoming carrier-agnostic” and could mean we’ll see a Verizon iPhone sooner than previously expected, Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar alleges in a note to clients today. Up to 12 million iPhones are already in the supply chain for the September quarter — a huge amount considering Apple has sold some 50 million of the devices worldwide since June of 2007. Kumar believes that if such production trends continue, Apple will move 40 million iPhones this year. He further believes that if Apple inks a deal with Verizon Wireless (s vz) by the end of 2010 — which may be the last year of iPhone exclusivity with AT&T (s t) in the U.S. — pent-up demand for a Verizon iPhone could drive quarterly sales to 17 million.
Although Kumar is throwing around what sound like large numbers and what-if scenarios, his numbers may actually be in line when you look at several other key bits of information:
- Apple sold 8.75 million iPhones in the first three months of 2010. That’s a yearly run-rate of 35 million handsets, not far below the 40 million Kumar expects.
- Love it or hate it, Apple sold more than a million iPads in the first 28 days after launch, there are reports that 200,000 are being sold each week and in many retail locations, there aren’t any currently left. The halo effect of a successful iPad could help iPhone sales.
- Recent documentation confirms AT&T’s exclusive relationship to carry the U.S. iPhone until 2012, but Kumar sniffed out other supply chain details earlier this year that signal a potential change to that deal. In January, Kumar reported that Qualcomm (s qcom) had been tapped by Apple to supply CDMA radio chips — there’s no iPad model with CDMA support, so the only other reasonable explanation is a CDMA iPhone.
- Apple surely knows that there’s pent-up demand for its phone the largest carrier network in the U.S. — in a recent survey, more than 50 percent of cellular customers said they’d be “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to purchase an iPhone on Verizon’s network.
Given that Google (s goog) claims the activation of some 100,000 Android devices per day, the game is clearly on between it and Apple. In 18 short months, Android has proven itself to be a force against Apple’s mighty iPhone and is catching up in terms of market share. And according to a recent AdMob report, much of the Android army is based in North America, so Apple could use another iPhone brigade in the form of Verizon.
And the fact that AT&T recently jacked up the price of its early termination fee to $325, effective next week, is just further evidence that AT&T expects to soon be losing its cash cow. Perhaps the big news at Apple’s WWDC event next week isn’t what we already know — there’s a new iPhone coming soon — but instead is what many hope for: at long last, a Verizon iPhone.
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