By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
November 12, 2009

Two sources say Apple is building a hybrid “worldmode” phone that Verizon could use

Judging from reader comments in this space, there are a lot of cellphone owners in America locked into Verizon (VZ) contracts who would buy an iPhone in a minute if they didn’t have to switch carriers to get it.

Verizon has made it pretty clear that it would cut a deal with Apple (AAPL), were it not for a couple of impediments: 1) the contract that makes AT&T (T) the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. carrier, and 2) the fact that Verizon’s network (based on CDMA2000 technology) is incompatible with Apple’s smartphone (which uses W-CDMA (UMTS)).

The first roadblock — AT&T’s contract — is set to expire next year, according to a widely cited 2008 USA Today article that included an interview with chairman Randall Stephenson. (Stephenson declined to comment on the details of the contract.)

The second barrier could also disappear were Apple to build a new iPhone that is compatible with both AT&T and Verizon’s networks.

Last week, AppleInsider reported on rumors that Apple may be doing just that. Its source was a leaked OTR Global report, based on unnamed sources in Apple’s Taiwanese supply chain, that said Apple was making a “worldmode” phone using a new hybrid chip from Qualcomm (QCOM).

On Wednesday, a second source for the rumor emerged, this one with a date attached. According to GigaOm‘s Colin Gibbs, Northeast Securities has issued a research note, based again on supply chain sources, that says Apple will launch a W-CDMA/CDMA2000-enabled iPhone through Verizon by the summer of 2010.

This assumes that Apple and Verizon can cut a mutually satisfactory deal. But judging from the tone of bitter resignation coming from AT&T executives lately, it sounds like Steve Jobs and Randall Stephenson may have finally come to terms.

UPDATE: AppleInsider on Thursday claimed to have found additional evidence that Verizon is getting an iPhone, but offered conflicting scenarios about when and how that might happen. See here.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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