As one analyst adds to the choir of Verizon iPhone predictions, a new theory is taking shape: Apple's coveted smartphone could come to Sprint or T-Mobile first in the US.
In a note to clients, Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu told clients that Apple and Verizon Wireless are still negotiating important details for the iPhone, "including technology and economics," Fortune reports. Wu wouldn't rule out the possibility of Sprint or T-Mobile getting the iPhone instead of, or in addition to, Verizon.
Murmurs of a Sprint or T-Mobile iPhone have been heard before. After Sprint dropped plans to sell Google's Nexus One smartphone, JKOnTheRun's James Kendrick skeptically cited a source who said the carrier would get the iPhone this year. As for T-Mobile, the iPhone question has been raised by anonymous sources and industry analysts, including a previous prediction by Wu.
The difference now is the amount of recent chatter about an iPhone for CDMA networks - the kind used by Sprint and Verizon. A CDMA iPhone is starting to seem like a foregone conclusion, and if Verizon drops the ball, Sprint is there. T-Mobile has always seemed like a logical alternative because it uses same GSM network standard as AT&T. Existing iPhones can technically run on T-Mobile already, and the phone's chip would need a relatively small modification to support 3G on T-Mobile's network.
So what's the problem with Verizon? As Wu points out, the iPhone costs more for AT&T compared with Android and BlackBerry phones for Verizon, and Apple probably wants Verizon to pay a similar price. But Verizon is having great success with Android phones from Motorola and HTC, and the amount Apple charges AT&T will drop once exclusivity ends. In other words, Verizon has some bargaining power, but Apple may look to other carriers who will pay more, resulting in bigger profits per sale.
If there's one big takeaway from all this speculative inside baseball, it's that a non-AT&T iPhone in 2011 is looking more like a foregone conclusion every day. But we're no closer to knowing which carrier will get the prize - and I'm guessing that's just how Apple likes it.