Verizon iPhone a ‘Done Deal’?

I have reported previously (June, 2010April, 2009) about how, when and why Verizon would include an iPhone in their available handsets over the last 2 years.

TechCrunch has done some research about the CDMA supply chain which points fairly reliably to the fact that Verizon will begin selling iPhones as early as January, 20011. The article was written by Steve Cheney is an entrepreneur and formerly an engineer & programmer specializing in web and mobile technologies.

We’ve been hearing Verizon iPhone rumors for years now.

It’s to the point that no one really believes the rumors anymore, since analysts and pundits have cried wolf so many times.  But this time looks to be different due to some key dynamics in the semiconductor value chain, and I am going to go on record to say Verizon will be selling an iPhone this coming January. Here’s why:

Smartphones like the iPhone are built from a collection of components, which are sourced individually from suppliers—e.g. the iPhone 4’s cellular baseband (the core chipset used in mobile phones to handle voice and data communications) comes from Infineon and its GPS chipset from Broadcom.

Component purchases and manufacturing starts don’t typically reveal strong links to individual handset OEMs. But in some cases components have a DNA which is traceable through the supply chain. For example, iPad rumors became much more concrete when we knew Apple was procuring large LCD screens.

For typical refreshes of GSM-based iPhones (the model that works on AT&T’s network), suppliers and component product families remain fairly consistent between models.  But a Verizon compatible iPhone would be CDMA-based, which would make its DNA distinct from other iPhones and traceable through the supply chain.

The dominant supplier of CDMA chipsets is Qualcomm, the largest fabless chip company in the world. Apple has never procured baseband chipsets from Qualcomm before.

If Qualcomm were to plan for orders from Apple, there would be a ripple effect through the supply chain. It works like this: Apple’s iPhone forecast links to Qualcomm’s CDMA chipset forecast, which then trickles down to their foundry partner TSMC, who uses the forecast to plan wafer starts.

A CDMA-based iPhone would likely sell 2-3 million units in the first few weeks (modeled after iPhone 4’s oversubscribed launch). The lead-time associated with upside in the semiconductor world is huge, sometimes as long as 26 weeks (supply is tight right now so this rule is in effect and Apple had major supply problems with the iPhone 4 and iPad).

Sources with knowledge of this entire situation have assured me that Apple has submitted orders for millions of units of Qualcomm CDMA chipsets for a Verizon iPhone run due in December. This production run would likely be for a January launch, and I’d bet the phone is nearly 100% consistent with the current iPhone 4 (with a fixed internal insulator on the antenna).

I can’t say with 100% accuracy that an iPhone will hit Verizon store shelves in January, but all of the signals point that way, and it would give Verizon’s CEO some interesting things to talk about in his CES keynote (though he may have to refrain as CES comes before Apple’s typical January keynote). I may be proven wrong, but based on my history dealing with components and selling to Apple, a Verizon-compatible iPhone looks to be a done deal.

Mobile Phone Next Steps

Apple’s contract is confirmed for a 5 year exclusivity (iPhones only on AT&T until 2012).

There has been this constant buzzing & chatter about iPhones on Verizon since Jobs blessed the early adopters with his mobile golden egg.

As always, these rumors continue although as recently as a week ago, with the release of iOS4 and AT&T’s ‘free’ or discounted upgrades to the iPhone4, the industry reads into it more possibility that a CDMA version or alternative iPhone will be made available to Verizon customers.

It was on that article that I was introduced to the idea of LTE. Now, I have heard of 4S, the next progression from 3G, but hadn’t really thought about what it could mean in terms of technology. This actually sounds exciting and it looks as thought the technology will be adopted by all the major carriers.

This means that regardless of your carrier, or even your phone, your upload and download speeds should increase exponentially.

Blackberry Storm

blackberry storm

Obviously, the big headline Tuesday was the official unveiling of the T-Mobile G1, but turns out my own wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless, has a little something up their sleeve. Here are some details about the smartphone.

First, the BlackBerry Storm will feature a 3.25-inch, 480×360 touch screen, which is better than the BlackBerry Bold’s and it will offer tactile feedback and auto rotation. For text entry, you will have the option of a virtual full QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode and a SureType keyboard in portrait mode.

The handset will also be one of the most connected phones with CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A, quad-band GSM/EDGE, and 2100MHz HSPA support. Standalone and assisted GPS is reported to be onboard. There will be 1GB of internal memory with a microSD expansion slot; reportedly, a 8GB microSD card will come in the box.

The Storm will also include full HTML browsing with support for attachment downloads and video streaming; a 3.2-megapixel camera with video recording, auto-focus, flash, and zoom; built-in instant messaging clients (Yahoo, Windows Live, Google, and AOL; visual voicemail; and support for V Cast and VZ Navigator

If this delivers, it may be just what I was looking for; all the enterprise compatibility of the Blackberry line to handle my business needs, along with the excitement, fun and sexiness of the touch UI.