Apple may be preparing to jump from the AT&T exclusivity ship in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal's Yukari Kane and Niraj Seth reported today that Apple-related sources who had been "briefed by the company" confirmed that the Cupertino electronics giant was cooking up a CDMA iPhone.

CDMA is a little used standard outside the U.S. – only a handful of carriers in South Korea and Japan use CDMA technology.  In the U.S., however, CDMA is huge thanks to Verizon which uses the technology to support the nation's largest wireless network.  Sprint, the third biggest carrier in the U.S., also uses CDMA.

The iPhone, now in its third generation (iPhone 3GS), still exclusively used GSM, a rival wireless technology.  GSM is the standard most commonly used worldwide and is used by both AT&T who carriers the iPhone and T-Mobile in the U.S.

Verizon and Apple both declined comment on the story.  An AT&T spokesperson told The WSJ, "There has been lots of incorrect speculation on CDMA iPhones for a long time. We haven't seen one yet and only Apple knows when that might occur."

That could occur this summer when the fourth generation iPhone airs, likely after being announced at the yearly Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) which is rumored to be held on June 28 this year.

We spoke with an AT&T spokesperson who pointed out that the CDMA iPhone is a perennial rumor.  They also commented, "We have a great relationship with Apple. Because of the iPhone and many other great devices, AT&T is the industry leader in smartphones, with twice as many smartphone customers as the nearest competitor."

While we agree that currently this is merely an unconfirmed report, The Wall Street Journal is typically a more reputable source, so we're staying tuned on this one.

Update 1: Mar. 30, 2010, 5:00 p.m EST:

We wanted to share the comments of a couple of seasoned Apple analysts on the topic of an incoming CDMA iPhone.  Most agreed that the CDMA iPhone was in the works, but many believed it would not be released on Verizon this year.  Writes Maynard Um of UBS in a note to clients, "While a new iPhone [fourth generation] in June is in line with our expectations, we believe a launch of a CDMA-based phone with Verizon this year is unlikely but believe a CDMA phone could be launched with other operators later in the year (China Telecom and KDDI are possibilities."

Credit Suisse, another top analyst firm, comments, "As for a new CDMA-based iPhone, we continue to believe that Apple will not support Verizon until CY11 (our assumption has been second half 2011). This device may very well be in the planning stages, but as the WSJ article states, 'the schedule could change and the phone may not be available to consumers immediately after production begins.'"

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