Right now, there are effectively two iPhone 4s: the CDMA version and the GSM version. From an American viewpoint, one runs on Verizon, the other runs on AT&T, but are otherwise identical handsets… yet because of the vagaries of cellular communication technologies, these handsets are actually tangibly different phones.
This isn’t the sort of situation Apple likes. They avoid forking hardware as much as possible, and if they are forced to fork a product — as they did with iOS when the original iPad was released — they converge those tines into a single product as quickly possible (in this example, iOS 4.1).
So we know that eventually, Apple just wants to make one iPhone that they can sell on both CDMA and GSM networks. And according to Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo speaking at their quarterly earnings conference call, that iPhone will be the iPhone 5, a truly “global device.”
Verizon CFO Fran Shammo, asked about the sluggishness of the company’s ARPU growth in Q1, when the iPhone was introduced – growth was just 2.2%, compared to 2.5% in Q4, remarked:
“The fluctuation, I believe, will come when a new device from Apple 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.”
The technology’s already there, of course. Inside the Verizon iPhone 4 is a Qualcomm chipset that would technically allow the CDMA iPhone to run on any GSM or CDMA network around the world, but it’s not a chipset design issue alone: there’s also the antenna to consider.
If Shammo’s right, expect the tines to converge again in September, when Apple releases the iPhone 5. And expect the iPhone 5 to have a very different antenna design at that.