Apple only has two options: either give up the mass market in the U.S. and accept slow growth in U.S. sales while Android undermines the iPhone’s base, or launch a CDMA 1X+EVDO Verizon iPhone very soon.
600,000 pre-orders on the first day of iPhone 4 availability, primarily to existing customers, suggests that Apple can continue to reap plenty of revenue selling to its slowly growing U.S. customer base.
Technology is almost certainly not the limiting factor here — I imagine a CDMA iPhone 4 is ready to go, or close to it, today — so it’s a matter of other influences, such as product timing with the GSM iPhones, supply chain delays, or contractual issues with the carriers.
I’d like to think about some of those “other influences” for a moment, specifically the marketing and branding ones.
Does the CDMA phone have a different name? How does the package differ? Are there CDMA versions of both the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4? How are the different models messaged in the Retail and Online stores? Do AT&T and Verizon share the stage in the television and print advertising? Most critically, how does Verizon communicate “now we’ve got iPhone” without communicating “…too!” The obvious choice would be for Verizon to do its own iPhone advertising campaign. AT&T will want to do its own competitive advertising as well, so as to continue its emphasis on their network’s simultaneous phone-and-data connection. Let’s all imagine how well those campaigns will go over with Steve Jobs.
Again, Apple does sell iPhone in countries with competing carriers. But currently ALL of them get the exact same phone.*
All of it (the marketing, the contractual carrier issues, manufacturing, supply chain and inventory, adaptations in Retail, connection to Verizon’s activation servers) adds up to a nontrivial amount of hassle for Apple, so that they can embrace an America-centric technology (Can anyone point me to data showing a global CDMA share above 17%? I haven’t found one.) that Tim Cook went on the record as saying “doesn’t really have a life to it after a point in time.”
I’m not saying Apple will never sell a CDMA phone in the U.S. But it may continue to decide that the path to selling more phones runs through India or China, rather than Verizon in the U.S., and allocate its attention and resources accordingly.
American mindshare matters, to be sure, especially among developers deciding how to divide their time between developing for iOS or Android.
But as Jobs enjoyed implying in his WWDC keynote, 100 million iOS devices means there are a lot of Verizon customers who already own an iPod touch or iPad.
I’m guessing a CDMA Verizon iPhone will be available within 6 months.
I will note that in the iPhone 4 marketing screenshots, the “AT&T” has been removed from its catbird position in the titlebar between the signal-strength bars and 3G icon.
Not that this means anything. Carrier names were removed internationally (from the marketing images, not the phones) for the iPhone 3GS launch, allowing Apple to use image assets across countries.
But I’m sure for those who need this phone to exist, this couldn’t have been a change for convenience or consistency’s sake. Right? RIGHT?
"That’s the thing about Apple marketing. They don’t talk about how many gigabytes of memory or how many CPU cycles or how many apps (much). They aim for your heart, and show you how technology can make your life better during its most important moments."