LTE will come to the iPhone - let's hang in there

While a lot of people were aggrieved that LTE did not make it into the iPhone 4S when it was released last October, the tech site Ars Technica has done a good job making it clear that not only did Apple not need to have LTE in the 4S it actually would have been detrimental.

The clue is in Apple’s just released quarterly results, which show that, unsurprisingly, the iPhone has accounted for a sizable chunk of Apple’s revenue over the past two years. Of the 37 million iPhones sold in the last quarter, only an estimated 10m or so were sold in the US. And outside of the US, while certainly growing apace, LTE is still an emerging technology.

Even within the US, the number of iPhone owners who could actively make use of LTE, is not huge. Verizon has reasonable coverage, but AT&T is still getting going and Sprint has yet to start its LTE roll-out. Apple would have increased the cost of its BOM on integrated technology that most of its customers could not use.

What’s more, considering the battery drain that current LTE chipsets impose on the iPhone’s Android rivals, it’s little wonder that LTE was omitted. The initial release of iOS5 caused users enough battery problems as it was, and having to weather the storm of the inevitable user dissatisfaction that a battery draining LTE chipset would have brought is a sea of hurt that Apple did well to avoid.

It’s also not the first time that Apple has approached network technology in this way. The original iPhone released in 2007 was much derided by commentators for its lack of 3G – but Apple was happy to wait for greater 3G rollout and better 3G chipsets for the follow up a year later. It proved to be the right move.

As I covered a while back, the chipset that Apple is waiting for is that Qualcomm MDM9600, which should enable Apple to get LTE into a form factor it wants with, hopefully, not much power drain.

One area though that does have pockets of LTE is the Middle-East, on networks such as Etisalat, in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Devices are sure to be a major point of conversation at the LTE MENA conference, taking place on 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE, and I for one will be keen to hear the operator’s take for the need for LTE handsets, from either Apple or its competitors.

On a selfish note, if LTE didn’t make it into the next iPhone I wouldn’t be too bothered. It would save me the frustration of seeing others round the world using it, while here in the UK we’ll be stuck with a cutting edge iPhone on a second class 3G network. The chances are though that LTE will be here for the next iPhone, possibly available in the summer. It will be interesting to see if Apple produces a separate version for markets without LTE, or goes for a single phone, containing a chipset that many will have to wait to make use of.

Comments on: "Why LTE would have made the iPhone 4S worse" (3)

  1. Has the LTE chip-sets battery drain improved enough to make it into the iPhone 5?

    • ..or will the iPhone batteries have improved enough to balance the LTE drain?

      • It’s going to mainly be the former. Apple is waiting until the LTE chipset manufacturers, probably Qualcomm, have improved their manufacturing techniques so that the chips draw less power. One way to do this is to shrink the various components and integrate them inot a single chip die. This reduces power draw. Then to produce the whole thing on a smaller manufacturing process – smaller transistors can operate at lower voltages. You can also make more, which makes them cheaper.

        Unfortunately battery technology itself is one of the smallest progressing technology areas, which is frustrating so we have to look to other areas to make gains. It’s why we don’t have amazing smartphones that last for days/weeks on a single charge!

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