One analyst warned investors Wednesday an unconfirmed report that Verizon Wireless will get the iPhone in January 2011, may be just more dead-end speculation. “Similar speculation has emerged before, so barring independent confirmation or a press release from one of the parties, it’d be rash to pop the champagne,” Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner wrote.
Although the idea of Verizon gaining the iPhone makes many analysts salivate at the prospect, so far it has only been a parlor game. Apple has defended the exclusive U.S. carrier in the past, and AT&T has recently taken steps to improve its 3G service.
Additionally, the timing would be out of character for Apple. Reiner noted Apple has traditionally unveiled new iPhones at the June Worldwide Developers Conference. At this year’s WWDC, the Cupertino, Calif. company introduced the iPhone 4.
“Would Verizon just get a CDMA version of the current iPhone 4? Would it get a new iPhone? Neither scenario makes much sense given that the iPhone just got a huge upgrade and that another isn’t likely before mid-2011,” the analyst reasoned.
Still, Reiner speculated if a Verizon-branded iPhone does appear, the impact would be “big and it’s incremental.” At least 12 million of Verizon’s 83 million subscribers would likely buy an iPhone, he said. Many of those subscribers would likely jump from AT&T, once the carrier no longer held a lock on iPhone access, he said.
Although AT&T recently offered current iPhone subscribers an easy upgrade path to the iPhone 4, the analyst describes the move as a “last-ditch effort to lock them into new contracts before Verizon came aboard.”
For Apple, a Verizon deal would “significantly blunt the competitive threat” from Android-based handsets. For now, Google and Verizon have worked hand-in-glove to offer Android alternative to the iPhone, such as the upcoming Droid X from Motorola.