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iphone verizonApple is holding talks to bring the iPhone onto Verizon’s mobile network, but the details are still being worked out, according to a note sent this morning by Kauffman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu.

The timetable for ending Apple’s exclusive agreement with AT&T in the United States has been the subject of constant speculation. Apple has ended its exclusive deals in most other countries, so something similar seems inevitable in the US, but the timing and the partner aren’t clear. Verizon seems like the most likely target, with sources telling Bloomberg that the carrier will finally get the iPhone in January 2011. Chief executive Steve Jobs has said that Apple has Verizon cell sites on campus, suggesting that the company is testing a Verizon iPhone.

Verizon might deliver the biggest audience, since it has 93 million subscribers compared to 90 million for AT&T, 48 million for Sprint, and 34 million for T-Mobile. And Wu said there’s another reason to start with Verizon:

We believe the argument for AAPL to pursue Verizon sooner than later is to address the growing presence of Android. What better way to do that than where Android has seen the majority of its success?

On the other hand, Jobs has been noncommittal whenever he’s asked about a move to Verizon, and Verizon’s John Johnston said in June that there are no plans to carry the iPhone in the “immediate future.”

Apple’s pretty secretive, so if there is a Verizon iPhone in the works, it probably wouldn’t be announced until shortly before launch. But Wu’s report suggests another reason for the vague public statements: There’s no done deal. The two companies are still trying to reach an agreement on “important details” that include “technology and economics,” Wu said. So it would be “premature to rule out T-Mobile or Sprint.”

Regardless of who Apple settles on, iPhone owners will have options beyond AT&T next year, Wu said.

“From our checks with industry and supply chain sources and a recent SEC 10-Q filing by AT&T mentioning that exclusivity with ‘a number of attractive handsets’ could end, we have conviction that the iPhone could likely finally be at another carrier besides AT&T here in the U.S. in 2011 and potentially at Verizon in 2011 or 2012,” he said.

[via All Things Digital]

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