Verizon CFO May Have Spilled The Beans On The iPhone 5

Dan Mead, Verizon iPhone Announcement

Did Verizon just commit the cardinal sin of being partners with Apple: did it leak info about the next iPhone? Verizon chief financial officer Fran Shammo would appear to have some explaining to do, following comments on the company’s earnings conference call that appeared to let an interesting detail slip about the next iPhone.

Originally spotted by Barron’s, and confirmed by a transcript posted on Verizon’s site, Shammo said the next iPhone launch would be a “global device,” which usually means that it’s a phone that’s capable of running on both GSM networks used by AT&T (NYSE: T) and the majority of wireless carriers in the world and CDMA networks, used by Verizon and Sprint (NYSE: S) in the U.S.

Addressing a question from Jason Armstrong of Goldman Sachs about changes in Verizon’s margins, Shammo said, according to Verizon’s transcript (PDF):

The fluctuation, I believe, will come when a new device from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is launched, whenever that may be, and that we will be, on the first time, on equal footing with our competitors on a new phone hitting the market, which will also be a global device. So I think there will be some fluctuations when that happens, but we don’t anticipate any fluctuation in the second quarter.

Now we already know from iFixit’s teardown analysis that the iPhone 4 currently on sale at Verizon comes with a chip that has the ability to run on both networks: Apple just hasn’t flipped the switch on that capability. That could be what Apple has in store for the iPhone 5: a phone that can work on any network, anywhere, and perhaps with a faster processor to boot if reports that Apple developers are being told to anticipate souped-up hardware are true.

The timing also makes sense. Verizon’s second quarter will end in June, just after Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, where it’s been made pretty clear Apple only intends to discuss software updates and not a new hardware phone like it has the past several years at that event. Instead, the new iPhone isn’t expected until the fall.

But Shammo could also just be referring to the fact that Verizon might be part of a launch event in which it gets a new iPhone at the same time as do wireless carriers around the world. Verizon started selling the iPhone 4 off-cycle compared to other wireless carriers, who launched the device on schedule with Apple last summer while Verizon’s version wasn’t ready until February.

Either way, it’s a slip of the tongue that was surely noticed in Cupertino, where Apple has a reputation for enforcing a strict code of silence with its suppliers and distributors.

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