CDMA iPhone in engineering tests, may arrive in January, says John Gruber

It's not as cut-and-dry as last night's declaration that a new Retina Display-equipped iPod Touch is due in the next few weeks, but our man John Gruber just put up a lengthy post on the long-rumored CDMA iPhone for Verizon in which he says the mythical handset is codenamed "N92" and has reached "engineering verification test" (EVT) status. According to Gruber, that's just one step below "design verification test," which is what that stolen iPhone 4 prototype was -- meaning the CDMA iPhone is apparently just two hops away from production. Mix in persistent rumors of large CDMA chipset orders these past few weeks and a dash of AT&T hinting that exclusivity might be over, and it's sounding like ol' N92 could well arrive in January as first reported by Bloomberg -- perhaps at Verizon's CES press conference. In Gruber's words, "the CDMA iPhone is no longer a cold storage, keep-it-alive-just-in-case-we-need-it project."

Now, Gruber is very careful to say that none of this is a sure thing, and that Apple's CDMA work could have nothing to do with Verizon specifically; it could be for Sprint, or for various international CDMA carriers. What's more, we definitely have our doubts about a CES announcement -- we're expecting to hear a lot about Verizon's LTE plans at the keynote, and it would certainly be an odd capstone to launch an incredibly high-profile CDMA device at the same time. (Not to mention Apple's historic aversion to sharing the spotlight with others at CES.) Even still, we've definitely been hearing noise about a CDMA Verizon iPhone from all manner of sources for months now -- if this is ever going to happen, we'd say this is the last time it's going to make any sense before both Verizon and AT&T start to get serious about 4G.