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CDMA iPhone Finally Happening Tuesday?

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

LAS VEGAS -- The Verizon Wireless CDMA iPhone might finally be unveiled next week in New York, but could the feverishly anticipated smart phone now be overtaken by the carrier's new crop of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) handsets, due by the middle of this year?

Light Reading Mobile -- along with a plethora of other media outlets -- has received an enigmatic invite from the Big Red to an event in New York City next Tuesday. "Join us as we share the latest news," says Verizon. [Ed note: Good thing you're not washing your hair or anything that day, eh, Dan?]

There were a good number of hacks, flacks, and execs waiting around at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas so Light Reading Mobile has heard chatter that the launch is the much-anticipated iPhone. The Wall Street Journal is quoting "a person familiar with the matter" as saying that the device will be launched Tuesday. Of course, reports that the CDMA iPhone would be launched within months by Verizon have been put out by the WSJ and many other outlets for two years now. It still hasn't actually happened yet.

Nonetheless, there were some signs at CES that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is moving to broaden its portfolio of devices, possibly ahead of a CDMA iPhone. The operator said that it will launch 12 new Android devices in 2011 as it moves to LTE. (See CES 2011: Photos From the AT&T Developer Summit and CES 2011: AT&T Accelerates LTE Push.) Verizon, of course, is already heavily reliant on the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)-powered phones for its smart phone sales. The carrier said that 80 percent of its smart-phone sales now come from Android sales.

The question for Verizon subscribers could become whether they decide to opt for the elegant design but slower downloads of the iPhone on Verizon's older 3G CDMA network or the raw power of the new crop of Android phones, such as the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Thunderbolt, on the firm's multi-megabit LTE 4G network. (See CES 2011: Verizon Takes 10 With LTE.)

This could be a real question for Verizon users in the first half of the year. Verizon has said that 10 new LTE devices will be available by the first half of this year, including four smart phones, and some will be available early in February or March. Even if the CDMA iPhone is actually unveiled on Tuesday, we don't know when it would be available to buy. (UPDATE: As of Saturday afternoon, The Wall Street Journal is saying the phone would hit stores in late January.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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