CDMA iPhone 4

Pegatron Technology has received orders to build CDMA versions of Apple’s iPhone 4 according to DIGITIMES. Pegatron reports that it will begin shipping the CDMA iPhone 4 to Apple in the fourth quarter. The CDMA iPhone 4 will be manufactured in the company’s plant in Shanghai, China.

The CDMA Development Group (CDG) reports global subscribers of CDMA surpassing 522 million globally as of fourth quarter 2009. In the US, Verizon Wireless is the most well known CDMA carrier but there are many many other including Sprint, U.S. Cellular, AllTell, MetroPCS, etc. All told CDMA subscribers in North America totaled more than 160 million in fourth quarter 2009. By far the largest region is the Asia Pacific region with 286 million with Japan’s KDDI and South Korea’s KT Freetel, LG Telecom and SK Telecom leading the way. Demand for a CDMA iPhone is there and lots of it.

Of course GSM is a much more global technology with almost 4 billion in subscribers at the end of 2008 according to GSM World with 43% located in the Asia Pacific region. Does it make economic sense for Apple to build a new CDMA iPhone to add at most an additional 15% to its sales? I’m not sure.

Apple has gone public in its unwavering support for AT&T, but AT&T has done almost everything it can to mess things up for Apple’s iPhone business: lousy connectivity in the most important markets in the US, extremely tardiness in offering features, security breaches, botched iPhone launches, etc. We all know what a bit of competition can do for companies like AT&T.

Let’s assume Apple introduces a CDMA iPhone 4 with Verizon Wireless. If that happens yours truly would almost immediately ditch AT&T and get a CDMA iPhone 4 and for one very important reason: Verizon’s network is more robust. My guess is that many others would do the same. Sure, I lose the capability to talk and browse at the same time but I have a feeling Apple would make sure its iPhone customers get a similar experience across carriers when it comes to something like that. Hopefully that will also help AT&T in the long run since bleeding iPhone customers would almost certainly shock the company to action. Plus Apple gets to strengthens its presence in two of the world’s most important CDMA markets: Japan and South Korea.