Stop us if you've heard this one before: there's a new report that Verizon may soon offer Apple's iPhone, ending AT&T's US exclusivity for the überpopular handset.
The latest speculation comes from Barclays analyst James Ratcliffe in a Tuesday research note, in which he opined that the US's largest mobile carrier would "probably" begin offering the iPhone in early 2011.
Verizon-iPhone rumors have cropped up repeatedly since AT&T — then Cingular — landed its exclusivity deal for the Cupertinian handset after Verizon turned down the same opportunity.
In 2007, referring to negotiations with Apple, one Verizon exec explained: "We said no. We have nothing bad to say about the Apple iPhone. We just couldn't reach a deal that was mutually beneficial."
Since that time, rumors and reports linking the Basking Ridge, New Jersey, wireless provider and the iPhone have surfaced time and time again:
- September 2008: "Unnamed tipsters" tell Engadget that Apple is working on an iPhone designed to work with Verizon's CDMA network, and that it will be available "next year" — meaning 2009.
- April 2009: Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg tells The Wall Street Journal that although Apple never seriously considered building a CDMA iPhone, the two companies would likely work together on a device when Verizon rolled out its 4G LTE network, now scheduled to begin appearing in late 2010 and early 2011.
- April 2009: Business Week, citing the ever-loquacious "persons familiar with the matter, reports that Verizon and Apple are in talks about a CDMA-based "iPhone lite" and "media pad".
- October 2009: A Morgan Stanley analyst suggests that if Apple let Verizon provide the iPhone, it could double sales of the handset in the US.
- November 2009: Unnamed Taiwanese sources tell investment-research firm OTR Global that a "world-mode" iPhone capable of running on both Verizon's CDMA and AT&T's GSM/UMTS networks is under development, and AppleInsider says that the phone will appear on Verizon's network in the third quarter of 2010.
- January 2010: HotHardware reports that they have been "led to believe by an inside source" that Apple would announce the end of AT&T's iPhone exclusivity at the iPad rollout on January 27 — the probable beneficiary: Verizon.
- May 2010: DigiTimes reports that orders for 10 million CDMA iPhones were received by the Taiwanese design and manufacturing company Pegatron. The Reg, however, suggests that if the Pergatron rumors are true, the phones are likely for the Chinese market. Pergatron declines to comment.
- June 2010: When asked at the D8 conference if there would be an advantage to having two carriers in the US — AT&T plus Verizon, undoubtedly — Steve Jobs replied: "There might be," thus reigniting the 4G LTE Verizon rumors.
And now Barclay's Ratcliffe adds his name to the Verizon-iPhone daisy chain, telling Business Week: "As the most popular handset in the marketplace, the iPhone should help drive [Verizon] subscribership."
Verizon chairman and CEO Seidenberg, however, cautioned against irrational exuberance among those iPhone users clamoring to get out from underneath AT&T's notoriously spotty service. "That decision's really Apple's," Seidenberg told the Economic Club of Washington on Tuesday. "We stand ready to do it, but that's an Apple decision."
And despite years of rumors to the contrary, Apple has decided to remain with AT&T. But when both AT&T and Verizon move to 4G LTE next year, all bets are off — and, undoubtedly, yet another flurry of rumors and speculation will erupt. ®