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Verizon iPhone set for January touchdown?

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"Stop us if you've heard this one before: there's a new report that Verizon may soon offer Apple's iPhone, ending AT&T's US exclusivity for the überpopular handset."

That's the opening sentence of a Reg article from exactly one week ago. And it works equally well for the news item you're reading right now.

This Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that "two people familiar with [Verizon's] plans" but "who declined to be named because the information isn't public" said that the iPhone will be available on Verizon's service beginning in January.

Last week's rumor was based on a research report by a Barclay's analyst who said that Verizon would "probably" begin offering the iPhone in early 2011. The Reg was skeptical — not the least because iPhone-on-Verizon rumors have become something of a cottage industry over the years.

But this new Bloomberg-based rumor appears to have a bit more gravitas. That said, it remains a rumor — and, as might be guessed, neither Apple nor Verizon spokesfolks were willing to comment about such speculation.

The two companies have undoubtedly discussed Verizon's iPhone future — they'd be foolish not to, seeing as how one of the weakest elements of the iPhone ecosystem in the US is AT&T's spotty service.

As one analyst told Bloomberg: "The fact is, Apple is going to dramatically increase the number of devices it sells in the US when exclusivity at AT&T ends," UBS AG analyst John Hodulik said. "It's hard to ignore the quality issues that AT&T has faced."

The same analyst is of the opinion that Verizon customers could buy up to three million Verizon iPhones per quarter. That'd be good news for Verizon, good news for Apple — and, in a way, good news for AT&T, whose service quality and corporate image have been thrashed by iPhone users' data traffic and vociferous grumblings.

Yes, talks between Verizon and Apple are likely underway, but nothing except multiple speculative rumblings have ever reached the hoi polloi.

And so The Reg remains skeptical — but, it must be said, a wee bit less skeptical than we were last week. ®

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