Could Verizon Wireless get the Apple iPhone?

Sources tell the New York Times and USA Today that "high-level discussions" between the No. 1 U.S. cellular carrier and the hardware maker "intensified" two weeks ago, and that a Verizon iPhone could hit stores as early as next year.

AT&T Wireless' exclusive deal to offer the iPhone expires sometime next year, though only insiders know the actual date. AT&T has been fighting, so far without success, to get the deal extended by another year.

Apple's acting CEO, Tim Cook, seemed to nix rumors of an Apple-Verizon deal during a conference call last week with investors.

He noted that CDMA, the aging cellular technology Verizon Wireless' network runs on, "doesn't really have a life to it after a point in time." (Most cell phones worldwide use the GSM technology that forms the backbone of AT&T Wireless' network.)

But Cook may have given the game away with that comment. Verizon Wireless will be moving to a more advanced cellular technology called LTE, which is back-compatible with both CDMA and GSM.

Executives of Verizon Inc., which co-owns Verizon Wireless with Britain's Vodafone (the official British iPhone carrier), avoided answering iPhone questions during a conference call Monday with investors.

"We have said in the past we are always open to discussions with any suppliers," said Verizon President Denny Strigl, according to the Wall Street Journal.

• Click here to read the USA Today report.

• Click here to read the New York Times story.

• Click here for the Wall Street Journal blog posting about Verizon's earnings call.

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