Apple appears to be looking to Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest carrier in number of subscribers, to beat back the Android invasion. The computer giant is now all but certain, reports say, to end its exclusive U.S. relationship with number-two carrier AT&T and roll out a CDMA version of the popular iPhone 4 early next year.
The Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” in its front-page story Thursday, capping months of rumors about a Verizon iPhone that would give the carrier, which has also spearheaded the growing popularity of phones based on Google’s Android operating system, another powerful weapon in its arsenal.
So far this year, sales of Android phones, available from multiple manufacturers and several carriers, have overtaken those of the AT&T-exclusive iPhone, according to numerous analyses. Last June, Barclays Capital analyst James Ratcliffe estimated that a Verizon iPhone would add 900,000 subscriber’s to Verizon’s base in 2011 while selling nine million handsets for Apple.
While reports of a Verizon iPhone have appeared steadily for months, the Journal’s is the first to report a manufacturer for the device, Pegatron Technology of Taiwan. It also said Qualcomm is working on a chipset for the phone, and Apple considered a phone that could work both on CDMA and the more widely adopted GSM networks before deciding against that route.
The report comes as Verizon is preparing to roll out its high-speed, fourth-generation LTE network in major cities. The news leaves unanswered several key questions: Whether the CDMA iPhone will be compatible with that network; whether it will be available via other CDMA carriers, such as Sprint Nextel; and whether its design will address the antenna problems that plagued the iPhone 4 release in June, bringing bad publicity but having little impact on sales. Verizon’s price for the phone, which comes…