Verizon iPhone on track for March 2011 debut, says analyst

AT&T may pre-emptively slash iPhone prices on Black Friday to corral customers

Apple is on schedule to launch an iPhone capable of making calls on Verizon's network early next year, most likely in March 2011, a research analyst said today, citing sources among Asian parts suppliers.

"It's on track," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co. who watches Apple. Marshall had first pegged March as the launch for a Verizon iPhone five months ago.

"It won't be just for Verizon," Marshall added. "There are international carriers that use CDMA, like KDDI in Japan, so I expect that Apple will make a big global push, not only in the U.S."

CDMA (code division multiple access) is the mobile standard used by Verizon's network, and differs from the more widely-used GSM (global system for mobile communications) technology that drives AT&T's network. All carriers currently selling the iPhone base their networks on GSM.

Marshall was responding to questions prompted by a Wall Street Journal story last week that said Apple is manufacturing a CDMA-capable iPhone, and that Verizon would start selling the device early next year.

Rumors about an iPhone compatible with Verizon's network have been rampant for months, and pop up on a regular basis. The last time such speculation made news was in August, when reports surfaced that a long-time iPhone maker had opened a new factory, possibly to crank out CDMA iPhones in secret.

An iPhone on Verizon would mean big sales for Apple, said Marshall. "Apple will sell an additional 11.5 million units with Verizon," he said, referring to his 2011 sales and earnings models. "[Sales at] AT&T would go down only a couple million, but Verizon would sell at least 11.5 million in 2011."

Apple sold 17.2 million iPhones worldwide in the first half of 2010.

Marshall hasn't put a number on global sales of a CDMA iPhone next year, but said that the total upside for Apple would be "pretty tremendous."

Previously, Marshall had also heard from other sources that a Verizon-Apple partnership would start some time before next year, with Verizon selling Apple's Wi-Fi iPad. Those sources told Marshall the iPad would go on sale at Verizon stores as early as Black Friday, referring tp the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Black Friday is the traditional kick-off for the Christmas shopping season, when retailers typically slash prices and offer loss leaders to get consumers into their stores. This year Black Friday is Nov. 25.

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