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Is Apple prepping for a Verizon iPhone?

Apple has put in a huge order for CDMA chips from Qualcomm, according to TechCrunch. Could this mean a January release of a long-anticipated Verizon iPhone?

Rumor has it that Apple is buying millions of CDMA chipsets for a Verizon iPhone launch, according to TechCrunch.

The tech blog published a story Sunday citing unnamed sources that said Apple ordered millions of CDMA chips from Qualcomm in what looks like preparation for a Verizon Wireless iPhone. TechCrunch said that the chipset order is due for December, which could mean a January launch for a Verizon iPhone.

TechCrunch says a Verizon iPhone could have specs like those of the iPhone 4. CNET

AT&T and all the other carriers around the world that are selling the iPhone use a network technology called GSM. Verizon Wireless uses a competing technology called CDMA. The main supplier of CDMA chips is Qualcomm. So if Apple is indeed buying CDMA chipsets, then it would make sense that it might be developing a Verizon iPhone.

Speculation about a potential Verizon iPhone has popped up periodically since the iPhone's runaway success began in 2007. It's been reported that Verizon originally turned down the exclusive rights to offer the phone due to unappealing demands from Apple. Recently, there's been much talk about Verizon possibly offering the iPhone in January.

Whether Verizon will get an iPhone has never really been in question--rather it's been a question of when. I've said in the past that I believe such an iPhone wouldn't be available until next summer at the earliest, since a Verizon iPhone would likely support Verizon's new 4G technology, LTE.

That network is expected to be launched by the end of the year. At first it will be available in a handful of markets. Typically the way these network launches go is that data cards for laptops are developed first. And then about a year later handsets come on the market with chips supporting the new technology. So if the LTE market develops as previous wireless technologies have developed, the soonest a commercial LTE chip would be available would be summer of 2011.

But there is a chance that development of the LTE chips for smartphones has picked up momentum. A CDMA/LTE version of the iPhone giving it access to both a 3G and 4G network would be a home run for Verizon.

Of course, there is also the possibility that Apple is developing another type of product for Verizon's wireless network. At this point, it's too early to tell. Even TechCrunch is hedging its bets on the rumors.

"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," writes Steve Cheney in his TechCrunch post. "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."