White iPhone for Verizon?

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Between launching Google eBooks and the Nexus S/Gingerbread announcement, today has been a big announcement day for Google (possibly a big announcement week, if rumors about the launch of a Chrome OS netbook tomorrow turn out to be accurate).

For Apple, however, it's been a big rumor day. A lot of speculation and presumed facts surfaced over the course of the day about the future of the iPhone. Two items in particular have generated buzz that's worth considering.

First up, Kaufman Bros. Analyst Shaw Wu reports that Verizon is letting Apple have the driver's seat in negotiations for a Verizon iPhone and may even be willing to pay Apple to limit U.S. exclusivity to Verizon and AT&T. Verizon iPhone rumors aren't new (they've been around since the initial iPhone launch three years ago). However, Verizon's apparent desire for not just the iPhone but also to exclude Sprint and T-Mobile from becoming iPhone carriers is a new twist. According to Wu (who generally has a decent, but by no means perfect, track record when it comes to Apple predictions), Verizon doesn't see RIM's BlackBerry OS 6 having a "material impact" on the market and that Android has begun to "lose some of its luster" for the carrier (Fortune's take on today's Google announcements that might lend some credence this statement).

Although the Verizon rumors have been around for a while, the Wall Street Journal reported in October that a Verizon iPhone would be available in early 2011 and there have been reports of Apple testing a CDMA iPhone that could function on Verizon's network (as well as Sprint's).

Meanwhile, photos of placards surfaced over the weekend that say Apple's white iPhone 4 will ship in the first part of 2011 (specifically in the spring). The white iPhone has been delayed since the iPhone 4's initial release and, despite statements that it would ship by year's end, it hasn't. Rumors of the troubles with the white iPhone include color matching the paint of the glass surfaces to the plastic home button to Steve Jobs' satisfaction and that the white tinted glass created problems when shooting with the camera's LED flash.

I'm not usually one to comment on rumors (particularly long running ones like the Verizon iPhone one), but there is a thin thread among these that makes me wonder about them.

Apple has consistently kept the iPhone release schedule to the same June/July timeframe of the original iPhone release (much as it does with the annual September iTunes/iPod updates). However, these rumors and reports point to some form of updated iPhone during the first quarter of next year. What's interesting is that neither of these items is pointing to a major iPhone hardware (or iOS) update or overhaul. A CDMA iPhone would rely on a different chipset for communication, but could otherwise be almost identical to the current GSM model (as is the case with many other handsets on the market). A white iPhone would be different only in color. That could simply be coincidence, or it could be a sign of truth to shipment of both the white iPhone and a CDMA iPhone around the same time.

Of course, I (and many others) could just be looking at a bunch of tea leaves with wishful thinking rather than reading them correctly with a prediction for the future.

What's your thoughts? Is there something to these rumors? Is Shaw Wu of the mark by saying Android has lost its luster for Verizon? Let us know in the comments.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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