If there are going to be millions of CDMA iPhones in January, we’re going to start hearing about signs of production.
But I do know that engineering-wise, the wheels are turning on N92, the CDMA variant of the iPhone 4. It’s certainly not in production yet, and hasn’t reached DVT status (device verification test — like Gray Powell’s infamous stolen unit), but it is, a few little birdies claim, at EVT (engineering verification test). That’s one step below DVT, which is one step below production. So it’s right about where you’d think it would be if it were scheduled to go on sale in January. The CDMA iPhone is no longer a cold storage, keep-it-alive-just-in-case-we-need-it project.
Gruber takes the CDMA chip orders, mixes that in with a few of his little birdies, and he has himself a solid argument. I’ve been on the side saying it won’t happen, at least not until LTE. I argued Apple would stick to making one phone per year, to keep cost down, in my post Economy of Scale. I thought, why would they go to all the trouble to make a special phone just to support Verizon? Maybe, as Gruber suggest, they’re not just making it for Verizon, but Sprint and lots of other CDMA markets throughout the world. Also, not sure if it’s technically feasible, but what about a single iPhone that supports CDMA and GSM networks. If either of these is true, this argument holds no water.
What about other issues, like a CDMA iPhone owner wondering why they can’t talk on the phone and look up movie times like they just saw in that commercial? With this one iPhone per year model so entrenched in everyone’s mind, it will be hard for people to understand why the Verizon iPhone works differently than the AT&T iPhone. I’m not sure of other noticeable GSM/CDMA differences, so this could be a non-issue.
I offer a third argument, Verizon and Apple themselves. I ignored this before because I was so caught up with technical side of it, but I think this is the strongest reason for no Verizon iPhone. We know how stubborn Apple has been with the iPhone control already, letting AT&T know who is running the show. The issue here is Verizon is just as stubborn and powerful. Great example of this is Verizon, not the handset manufactures, owns the Droid name. Gruber joked today on The Talk Show: Episode 3, that a Verizon iPhone deal could fall apart because Apple says no to the Verizon logo on the back of the iPhone…it’s funny because it could be true. Also, don’t forget that Verizon has publicly bashed the iPhone with their Droid Does campaign and have very strong ties to Google (net neutrality anyone?). Remember this is the “the summer of Droid”.
Gruber goes on to point out:
The key bit: “At the critical juncture […], when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits.” I think this encapsulates Jobs’s philosophy since taking over Apple in 1997. Take the high end of the market first, establish a brand and presence, then steadily start to expand.
If they’re at that juncture with the iPhone now, expansion means CDMA. And in the U.S., it means Verizon.
I agree that Apple wants to expand the iPhone to more markets and now is a great time. The iPhone has a well established name and filled out most of the must have features (still waiting on a better notification system). The timing, CDMA chip orders, and especially Gruber’s little birdies have now convinced me that the N92 CDMA compatible iPhone is just around the corner. To be clear, I would love nothing more than a Verizon iPhone to help spread the load to more towers, but ask me whether I think we’re going to see it happen and I still have to say no.
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