Posts tagged ‘Apple’

Apple and iPhone 6 gently raise the LTE bar

iPhone6_34FR_SpGry_iPhone6plus_34FL_SpGry_Homescreen_HEROAs you probably have noticed Apple, the company famous for making computers, among other things, did something remarkable yesterday. Yes, it killed off the ‘Classic’ iPod. You know the one with the click wheel and the 50 trillion songs on your pocket slogan. I know, I can hardly believe it either. This is a great shame of course, especially as I was thinking of upgrading my 2005 model as just last week my iTunes library exceeded its 60GB capacity for the first time meaning I can’t just hook it up and sync. Ah, cruel world.

In the context of this blog though, I’m misdirecting you (in case you hadn’t noticed), as Apple also released three new devices in the shape of two new iPhones and a Watch, its first ‘wearable’. The latter, in all likelihood, marks the official start of the ‘IoT’, as previously ‘dumb’ devices become smart and connected. Yes, others have got their first, but no tech party can really begin till Apple arrives. (Then again, some people hate it).

In terms of LTE though, the new iPhones raise the bar, albeit relatively modestly. The phones now offer LTE support on 20 different bands, though not at once. As with the 5c/s there are three skews, with multiple variations for Europe, Asia and the US. TD-LTE support has also been slightly expanded with the addition of Band 41 – 2.5GHz.

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SKT in good voice as it shows operators the way to go

SKtAt the second day of yesterday’s LTE Voice conference, which took place in London, the presentation by Changsoon Choi of SK Telecom attracted a positive responses from the audience, and really brought home how ahead of the game the South Koreans are in LTE and with particular relevance to the conference, in terms of VoLTE.

Choi started with a simple list of SKT’s achievements in LTE so far. As of 2012 it had 99 per cent population coverage based on a dual layer 850MHz and 1800MHz multi-band network and currently has 89 cities running dual-carrier LTE Advanced, all of which means it’s no surprise is enjoys 48 per cent market share for LTE in the country.

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Apple iPhone 5s launch underwhelming, but rounds off global LTE support nicely

colourfulAs the furore settles down over yesterday’s Apple iPhone 5s/iPhone 5c update we can take a quick look at the news and specifically what it means from an LTE perspective.

Two new phones were launched and while are clearly very solid offerings, no wheels were reinvented, and as such, it was a little underwhelming, at least from an iPhone 5 owner’s perspective.

The iPhone 5C is essentially an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell, available in more colours and the 5S is essentially a faster version of the iPhone 5, thanks to a new 64-bit chip capable of taking advantage of the 64-bit iOS7.

The ‘budget’ iPhone angle that analysts were predicting also failed to come true. The 5c is still a £469 phone SIM free – which hardly makes it likely to appeal to developing markets.

The good news though is that both phones though are capable of taking advantage of more LTE bands that any other smartphone in the world right now. There are five models of each to choose from depending on region.

This is essentially as Apple has to make a choice as to which LTE frequencies to support, as with 40 LTE bands currently employed round the world supporting them all at once would mean a battery life of around five minutes.

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Inverting the Pyramid

InvertedPyramidSo now it’s official. It seems that we now have conclusive proof that when it comes to LTE and the iPhone 5, Apple is the one calling the shots – not the carriers.

A report on our sister publication Telecoms.com has confirmed as much after a Swisscom spokesperson inadvertently confirmed it in a report on its LTE network going live.

While full credit goes to Telecoms.com for breaking the story, it was some digging by yours truly that led to confirmation of the news.

While researching the Swisscom story, in its press release Swisscom said that its LTE network would be going live on a triumvirate of frequencies, 800, 1800 and 2600MHz. However, in the release Swisscom said that, “Apple will provide a software update in due course for customers with an iPhone 5 or one of the new iPads.” This piqued my interest, as the iPhone 5 supports 1800MHz LTE, so surely is would simply be a case if putting in a compatible SIM and letting it do its thing.

It seems not. After I enquired further about this Swisscom got back to me to say that, “The iPhone 5 requires a software update since Apple only enables 4G access after having successfully tested their device on an operators live network.”

Wow.

What’s interesting about this is now it demonstrates that the pyramid has been inverted. Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream said he was ‘shocked’ by the news and that it proved that Apple is, “running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”

Operators used to be the ones who gave the go ahead on whether a device was good enough for its network – not the other way round. Carriers used to have the power to make or break a network. There are some who think that this has contributed to HTC’s decline over the last couple of years – with Samsung’s Android device getting most of the subsidy love in the US over HTC.

But as the most valuable company in the world Apple has a power that no one else has. It evidently conducts its own tests to determine whether the network is good enough, and only then will enable its phone to operate on that network via a software update.

It does have strong reasons for doing this. After the release of the original iPhone in 2007 exclusively on AT&T, Apple took a lot of flak after poor reports of performance on that network, and there was nothing it could do to correct that impression.

Now it can ensure that the network experience is as positive as possible, and after the Maps debacle and various other issues it needs to ensure it can do what it can to bolster its reputation.

From an industry perspective, the carriers are unlikely to be happy with this change in the power swing but the success of the iPhone means that the power is now in Apple’s hands and that is showing no sign of waning – just recently Sprint spent heavily (US$15billion over four years) to get the iPhone on its roster.

If you are to judge from the comments left on this story on the various sites around the web, (that is after all how we get a sense of these things these days) there are many punters that seem pleased that Apple is now running that show and dictating things to the carriers. Despite Apple being the one making the huge profits, many view the carriers as the ones restricting customers choice and squeezing the dollars from them anyway they can. While the network is central to what consumers want to do, what the carriers offer is invisible to most of them.

All that implies that when it comes to persuading consumers that the networks have the services that they want and should be paying for, such as Joyn, the operators are going to have their work cut out for them.

iPad 3 still not 4G UK punters discover

Why does everything in the UK take so long? We have the worst trains, the slowest 3G and as we should know by now, no ‘4G’ of any kind at all – at the moment. We even take longer than everyone to complain. Yet, isn’t that what we’re good at? Let me explain.

Soon after the new iPad was released I pointed out that though it was heavily pushed by Apple as ‘4G’, the LTE frequencies supported meant that it would only work on ‘4G’ networks in the US and Canada.

A few days, and a lot of iPad sales later, some Australian purchasers of said new iPad realised this and when they realised they’d been sold a 4G pup got rather irate. (Australia does have a ‘4G’ LTE network with Telstra, but it operates at 1800MHz – the iPad + 4G does not). Cue throwing of iPad’s on barbies and hurling abuse via the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), actions that have led to refunds.

It’s taken quite a while, but the UK has finally woken up to the same fact, and as Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC Technology journalist explains, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has also received some complaints. Only 40 of them though, which considering it sold three million in three days, doesn’t seem that many.

Of course, as the UK doesn’t have any live LTE ‘4G’ networks the issue isn’t as acute as in Australia, though in fact, as you can tell from this Which? conversation page, I was asked to contribute to, many UK punters thought that if Apple was selling a 4G iPad, there must be a 4G network.

At first I thought that this was as silly as the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, who famously thought that if you can’t see it, it couldn’t see you.

Then again, that’s probably a bit harsh. For punters who don’t want, or don’t care to pay attention to the finer details of mobile broadband technology, it’s not an totally unreasonable assumption to make. (Clearly, Joe Bloggs should be paying more attention to the finer details of mobile broadband technology).

Even for those that do know that the UK doesn’t have LTE now, the information that it won’t support the UK’s LTE  when it comes online next year, comes very much as news to them.

It’s a problem.

As such, it seems that Apple has promised to remove all references to 4G from the UK website – though as it stands, they are still there.

It’s a 4G quagmire out there.

On the upside, it’s stopped raining here in London. It’s not all bad.

What’s the LTE frequency Mavis?

So the Apple hoopla is now over and, well, OK, it’s not over at all, but now that the new iPad has finally been unveiled the agonising pent up expectation has been dealt with and we can start to get on with our lives.

Looking at the specs, a few things of note occur. The HD display was, of course what this release was all about in the main, and it does sound like an amazing achievement. More resolution than a Full HD TV in a small 9.7in space will make for incredibly sharp, vibrant and clear images. Eventually it will Make Things Better, as web site designers, photographers and app designers realise they need to improve the visual quality of everything they do for fear of the new iPad display laying bare their flaws.

The next issue is the name. It appears to be officially called, ‘the new iPad’. Really? Facepalm.

The first iPad was called the iPad. The second iPad was called the iPad 2. So naturally the third is called… the new iPad. This sort of thing makes me a bit cross. Could we not just avoid confusion and called it the iPad 3? Would iPad HD have been too terrible? (Update: @ianbetteridge points out that it’s actually just called: iPad. Still, point stands.)

One tech journo wag on Twitter wrote, “I’ve given it some thought and I refuse to call it “New iPad”. No. I’d rather call it Glen, Tina or Gregg Jevins.” I’d be included to agree, though I’m leaning towards Mavis. Mavis it is then.

Another thing Mavis doesn’t have is the Senseg textured feel tech that some tech journos were getting very lathered up about yesterday. And because it’s not there we shall not speak of it again.

We also get a much improved 5-megapixel camera with 1080p recording, which is nice. This no doubt – will be putting further strain on network if pictures and videos are sent uncompressed.

Which brings us to LTE. Yesterday I said that the iPad, sorry, Mavis, might come out in two flavours – one regular 3G and one LTE enabled one for North America. I was wrong, amazingly. In fact, there’s one world LTE enabled Mavis, though outside of the US in terms of LTE, it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot.

This is because it’s only compatible with both the 700MHz bands used in the US by AT&T and Verizon. It also has LTE 2100, which is Big in Japan, and Nigeria. Great.

This means that when LTE networks become widespread in Europe, this iPad will simply not work with them. Europe is in the main going to use three main frequencies for LTE: – 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz, so it will require a new chipset that supports those for European users to get LTE Mavis joy. It works the other way too – US users coming here will have to drop down to 3G. In the promotional video for Mavis, Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering says that it “works with more mobile bands than every mobile device ever.” Assuming this is true, it’s impressive but Apple needs to up the count even further for the next one. Not that it will be so terrible having to drop down to 3G, as the Mavis now supports HSPA+ and DC-HSPA (21Mbps and 42Mbps respectively and these are theoretical maximums; also known as ‘in your dreams’.

On an iPad, sorry Mavis, it’s less of an issue as wi-fi only tablets version tend to be popular, and that might be the safest route for now, and you can always tether to a mifi or smartphone.

The question then is if a newer LTE chipset will be ready by the time the iPhone 5 launches. If not, it will be more of an issue, as then Europe would effectively be stuck without LTE until the iPhone 6! I know, it barely bares thinking about.

(Picture is ‘borrowed’ from Nate Lanxon’s spiffing hands-on preview at Wired.co.uk.

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For more LTE terminal device discussions be sure to book your place at the LTE World Summit taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. 

LTE iPad a ‘touchy’ subject

It’s a common bugbear for some tech journalist  that in the lead up to an Apple product launch, other tech titles do almost nothing other than feed the Apple trolls. That being said I thought I’d allow myself one single Apple post just in case you’re not aware what’s happening tonight . (If that’s you – how is that rock you’ve been living under?)

Tonight will see Apple launch the third iteration of its iPad tablet computer. First announced in January 2010 the iPad is now Apple’s second largest generator of income, second only to the iPhone and ahead of the Mac. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple sold 40.5 million iPads in the calendar year 2011, driving revenue of nearly $25 billion. For a device that many analysts feared would flop, these figures are astounding.

As ever, the techosphere has been buzzing with guesses of what upgrades Apple will be including in the new machine, and trying to glean hints from the image in the invite that Apple sent round to those attending. The main new feature will undoubtedly be an upgrading high resolution display. The expectation is that it will offer double the resolution of the first two iPads, taking it from 1,024 x 768 to 2048 x 1536. This is much greater than almost all standard computer displays, which is remarkable for a 9.7in screen. This means that text, web sites and images will look even more crisp and clearer than ever before . The downside is that all iPad apps will have to be rewritten for the new high res display, or just run in double-up x2 mode, as standard iPhone apps can do when they run on the iPad. Unfortunately, this is a rather ugly mode, but a period of pain as Apps are gradually upgraded will be worth enduring to enjoy the quality on offer.

"And touch", eh. Is that a clue?

All this means that the name  is up for debate? Will it be iPad 3, iPad HD, or even, as would be quite apt, iPad touch – mirroring the iPod touch that it already offers. I kind of like the symmetry.

To power the demands of the new display the new iPad will need a faster processor, and there’s debate as to whether this will be new quad-core A6, and updated dual-core A5X, or lots of fast pedalling tiny squirrels. We’re hoping for the latter.

The second rumoured change is the introduction of real ‘touch’ feedback. The clue is in the ‘And touch’ part of the invite. Apple chooses its words carefully, and likes to hint at its launch news in the invites. The rumour is that it will use a technology called ‘Senseg, that will bring real-feel textures to the iPad (as the Guardian explains here) – so an image of say a corrugated surface will feel rough, and a soft surface will feel soft. The tech sounds pretty sci-fi, but it would be very Apple to pull it off. Senseg was showing off its tech as Mobile World Congress but after announcing in January that it was working with ‘a Californian tablet maker’, it’s gone all shy and won’t confirm anything.

The third rumour is that the iPad will introduce an integrated LTE chipset for the first time in its connected version. If it does this it will be forced to move away from the single worlds chipset it currently offers on the iPhone 4S, as the 700MHz LTE on AT&T and Verizon are not compatible. What’s more, when LTE arrives in Europe it will have to support 800, 2.6GHz and probably 1800MHz too. What Apple need is once LTE chipset to rule them all.

What’s clear is that LTE is third fiddle on the rumour mill, possibly even behind the hope that Apple might offer the fondleslab in colours other than black and white. For the UK and LTE in the iPad is naturally something of an irrelevance, (unless you live in Southwark), but for those in the rest of the world outside of the US that does have LTE it could be frustrating not to have access to a feature that those in the US do. That said, this is what mifi devices were made for – and you get to buy the cheaper wifi only iPad at the same time. Job done.

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