Just as the pundits had reached some kind of consensus - Apple really wouldn't break its AT&T exclusive this year, therefore no Verizon iPhone yet - another spate of rumors throws it all into doubt again.
This time, blogs have picked up on a report in Taiwan's DigiTimes, claiming Apple has ordered 10m CDMA handsets from manufacturer Pegatron.
The report cites the usual “insider sources”, and though DigiTimes does have good inroads into the Taiwanese ODM community, there have been 'leaks' of this kind before, which came to nothing. If they are true, or half-true, however, the customer does not have to be Verizon Wireless.
As The Register points out, a more likely candidate might be China Telecom, which - like all the Chinese operators - badly needs some eyecatching devices to accelerate uptake of its expensively created 3G network, with new 3G subscriptions slowing for all the cellcos since a peak in December.
Its W-CDMA rival Unicom already offers the iPhone and this week announced aggressive new subsidies to increase interest. It has been selling iPhones at a rate of around 150,000 a month but aims to increase this to sell at least 10 million this year. If Telecom could reasonably expect similar uptake, especially if it obtained a different, and perhaps cheaper, model, it might account for Apple's order by itself (the 'sources' indicate the order applies to phones to be made between August and year end, which could then ship from the fall until well into 2011).
However, the order could also apply to just one quarter and be geared to supplying multiple carriers. The largest seller of iPhones, AT&T, activated 2.7 million units in its last quarter. Indeed, given Apple's bid to boost the iPhone's overall market share, it would make sense to target major CDMA regions of Latin America and Asia.
Especially if the possibly mythical phone is, as The Register's Rik Myslewski argues, a lower end model than the 3GS or its upcoming successor. He cites a different set of rumors and sources, pointing to a dual-mode CDMA/UMTS iPhone, but a scaled-down version more suited to emerging economies.
The current model has struggled to achieve major presence in markets like India where average disposable income is low and subsidies/contracts are almost unheard-of. A cheaper iPhone might also be more effective at fighting off the numerous clones and counterfeits.
As Myslewski says: “It's unlikely that Verzion would want to settle for the second class model. But China Telecom might. After all, iPhone sales are now growing by leaps and bounds in that country, and its market is certainly large enough to support both a top drawer and an entry level iPhone.” The fact that Apple has chosen a different manufacturer, rather than the current iPhone partner Foxconn, also suggests this new model, if it exists, is a significantly different variation, rather than just the same iPhone with a CDMA radio added.