Source: Flickr user sparktography
With AT&T’s exclusive grip on the iPhone seemingly coming to an end, the talk of a Verizon Wireless iPhone continues to heat up. But a tie-up between Sprint and the gang from Cupertino makes far more sense — for both parties.
Rumors of a Verizon iPhone surfaced again a few weeks ago when two separate analyst reports surfaced indicating Apple planned to produce a hybrid device that supports CDMA2000 technology while retaining compatibility with UMTS 3G networks. BroadPoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall threw a little gasoline on the fire last week when he reported that AT&T’s exclusive hold on the iconic device is set to expire in June 2010.
A Verizon iPhone would make sense on several levels: It’s unlikely Apple would invest in building a CDMA-enabled iPhone without trying to sell it through both Verizon and Sprint — the nation’s two major CDMA carriers. Apple could benefit greatly by broadening its distribution for the iPhone, as Sebastian noted last month. And Verizon would likely cement its standing as the largest U.S. carrier by adding the gotta-have device to its portfolio and removing a key pillar of AT&T’s growth from the past year.
But while Verizon is demonstrating a new-found spirit of cooperation with its Droid initiative, I’m not convinced it’s ready to embrace an App Store that remains entirely Apple’s domain. Also, Verizon’s heavy investment in Droid is paying off — a fact that may lessen its interest in playing ball with Apple.
Sprint, of course, is in a very different position. The carrier is in desperate need of a hit in the wake of the Palm Pre’s tepid performance, and it might be willing to pay a king’s ransom for exclusive rights to a CDMA iPhone for a limited time — especially if Apple agrees to do the heavy lifting by continuing to back the device with big-budget marketing campaigns.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for Apple to favor Sprint over Verizon, though, is the carrier’s WiMAX partnership with Clearwire. Verizon’s hopes to bring its LTE service to as many as 30 markets sometime next year, but Sprint is already rolling out WiMAX service to various markets around the U.S. If Apple can push WiMAX-enabled handsets into production — a strategy that may already be in the works — it could build on its impressive momentum and tout its 4G functionality, positioning itself to capitalize as other carriers flip the switches on their LTE networks. At the same time, it could help get Sprint back in the game.