They've been leaning over the coffee machines and chatting in the back rooms over at Wall Street today, and whispers claim a re-run of the ever so popular iPhone for Verizon rumor.
That's right, analysts at Barclays Capital and the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch are agreeing that the signs and portents point to a Verizon Apple (AAPL) iPhone by the beginning of next year.
This is in line with sundry AT&T activities in recent weeks, not least the move away from an unlimited bandwidth offer for new iPhone customers.
Despite Verizon's attempt to hype its services and to connect up with the Droid X as a prime contender to the iPhone, the fresh analyst claims do tally with both Apple and Verizon's needs.
Verizon needs to offer the iPhone as part of its commitment to serving all varieties of customer, Apple needs Verizon to broaden iPhone marketshare and see off Google and its Android pretenders.
Whether the market will sustain a wait until next year is open to question.
For example, should an announcement be left too late, then most customers will simply hang tight until the iPhone 5.
This could mean Verizon iPhone sales may be under-par, which would lead to immediate headlines from the 'follow-the-leader' media in which they declared the iPhone in the US 'has failed".
Meanwhile in the Google corner, continued effort and energy to take Apple on across all markets mean the battle for the future of the smartphone industry is now in effect in the US.
Apple finds itself in a weird 'innovation race' as it works to maintain its position. AT&T is holding it back.
Break the deal
Previously we've heard that Apple and AT&T reached a five-year accord for the iPhone. This was good in that it enabled Apple to get into the market and create new rules, but the partnership is outgrown.
That isn't just because AT&T has a penchant for disappointing users. Coverage concerns, recent bandwidth changes and raised cancellation fees all take a toll on consumer loyalty.
This is also because even phone users on two-year contracts when the iPhone hit the US have had the chance to migrate to Apple's device at this point. This could mean there's limited life left in the replacement market for new customers taken from within AT&T's network.
Apple's imperative has to be to continue to build marketshare in the US.
For this, it needs to diversify the offering, matching the deals it has reached in other territories.
Android/Apple lovers take note: Apple's sales of 600,000 iPhone 4s across five countries will make a significant difference in its marketshare, true.
This imperative is clearly understood by Apple management, as the company once again moves to inform the market by introducing a period of claim and counter-claim, pending an actual move to diversify availability in the US.
Rumor has it
To the analysts (as reported by Barrons):
Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes expects a Verizon iPhone in the calendar first quarter of 2011. "While widely expected, we believe the additional carrier would extend and accelerate the iPhone 4 cycle" through the first half of calendar 2011, he writes.
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig notes -- as we have before -- that iPhone shipments grew when carrier exclusivity ended. He reckons getting the iPhone onto the second-biggest US network could add up to 9 million sales to Apple's balance sheet.
All of this isn't new, of course, and the reason Apple can't just offer iPhone on Verizon's network isn't just contractual -- it is also technical.
Verizon uses a different network standard, CDMA, than AT&T for its mobile network. In order to offer the iPhone on the network then Apple will need to manufacture a CDMA iPhone.
Pegatron Technology has allegedly begun manufacture of a CDMA iPhone, which Apple is due to begin accepting in quantity in Q4.
These signs suggest that for iPhone users falling out of love with AT&T in the USA, it could all be over by Christmas.
And that is in line to comments made by AT&T's John Johnson during WWDC, when he told us there'd be no iPhone on Verizon this year.
Then again, such is the nature of Apple prognostication, everything we think we think we know could be false. After all, Apple may also deliver the device via Sprint.
Or perhaps not offering the device through Verizon at all. Do you think Apple can win the smartphone war without diversifying its US carriers?