Rumor: Apple to announce end of iPhone/AT&T exclusivity on January 27th

Sun, Jan 24, 2010

News, Rumors

Citing an inside source, presumably at AT&T, HotHardWire is reporting that Apple on January 27th will announce the end of their exclusive relationship with AT&T. Supposedly, the bandwidth problems posed by data hungry iPhone users has caused AT&T so much grief, that they are no longer even fighting to keep the iPhone as an AT&T exclusive.

No one ever thought that the iPhone would remain solely on AT&T forever, and indeed, rumors have been hinting at a CDMA capable iPhone for a few weeks now. Back in early January, Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar wrote that Qualcomm had been tapped to provide the 3G EV-DO chips for a planned CDMA iPhone capable of running on the Verizon network, currently the largest carrier in the US. The current iPhone is GSM only, and while that makes it compatible with the worldwide standard, North America has been somewhat slow to follow suit.

No one knows for sure, but it’s largely believed that Apple’s exclusivity contract with AT&T is poised to expire in June 2010. Coincidentally, this year’s WWDC event is scheduled, so the rumors go, between the dates of June 28 and July 2 with a keynote planned for June 29th. This is a noteworthy date because it marks 3 years to the day from when the original iPhone first went on sale.

It seems unlikely that Apple’s contract with AT&T would expire arbitrarily in mid-January, but it’s very possible that Steve Jobs and Apple may take the opportunity to merely¬†announce that the iPhone will be coming to new carriers in just a few months. This actually would be a dagger in the heart for phones like the Motorola Droid in that it’s become quite common for to use AT&T’s less than stellar wireless network as a key selling point for rival handsets and carriers. Therefore, an announcement this week might effectively preclude a large group of consumers from upgrading to phones they might otherwise be interested in because they know the iPhone will be hitting the relatively stable Verizon network in just a few months.

Lastly, we’re sure that any damage to AT&T’s reputation is more than made up for by the millions of new subscribers AT&T was able to attract with what’s now been 3 distinct iPhone models. So while the iPhone on Verizon may be on Steve Jobs’ agenda come this Wednesday, we’d wager that it has a lot more to do with Apple looking to escape AT&T than the other way around.

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