Could Apple release a separate 4G LTE iPad 3 and Phone 5 in select markets?

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We'll likely get a new iPad 3 sometime this March and an iPhone 5 later this summer or fall, but will either or both of them run on the new, ultra-fast 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks? And if they do, will LTE be built into every device, or will there be special models made for just those networks that support it?

Right now there's only one iPhone 4S and it runs on both GSM/HSPA+ and CDMA/EVDO Rev. A, on every carrier that offers it. That's a change from the iPhone 4 that debuted as GSM/AT&T only and later had a different model, with a different antenna, released for Verizon. Likewise, the iPad 2 still doesn't come in a unified model, having on version for AT&T/GSM and one for Verizon alone.

So, while Apple has moved to unify their manufacturing for iPhone 4S, they have in the past, and still to this day, made separate models of iPhone and iPad to handle different network technologies.

And they could do it again for LTE.

Size and power consumption

iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, or iPhone 3GS: Which should you get?

Previous generation LTE chipsets were deemed unusable by Apple due to their size and battery-draining power demands. Early Android LTE handsets like the HTC Thunderbolt bled power at an almost comical level. Early devices were also chunky, but soon thinned out again and grew in length and width instead of depth, like the Nokia Lumia 900, letting larger screens take advantage of that extra space.

While rumors persist of a 4-inch iPhone 5, it's hard to imagine that Apple would let the iPhone 5 casing grow very much if at all just to accommodate an LTE radio and its battery. And they wouldn't put one in the iPad 3 now if they weren't planning on putting one in the iPhone 5 later. The phone is still the flagship, for now.

Qualcomm is releasing new chips, however, and it's possible they'll have one ready in time for the iPhone 5 that's small and power efficient enough to meet even Apple's demands. Let's grant for a moment that that proves true. There's still a much bigger problem when it comes to LTE.


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Verizon has a decent U.S. LTE roll out, claiming coverage in 190 markets of varying size. AT&T claims 26 markets with large scale deployment not complete until the end of 2013. Sprint will have 4 markets on LTE by mid 2011, but it will likewise take years to roll out nationally.

Internationally things get worse. Both Rogers and Bell have a handful of LTE cities each. In Europe and Asia there are a smattering of cities, but many huge markets are still years way.

LTE simply isn't very common yet, and Apple is the company that didn't even add 3G to the iPhone until the second generation version launched in 2008.


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Would adding the expense -- both component and engineering -- of an LTE radio, along with any remaining size and power demands, make sense to Apple if there are so few markets able to make use of it? Apple sold the one-iPhone 4S-model-to-rule-them-all faster and further than any other handset in the history of the business, getting it into more countries, on more carriers, for more users than ever before. Would that be possible if the iPad 3 or iPhone 5 similarly included LTE all in one model?

Instead, what if Apple kept the current radio stack in place for the iPad 3 and iPhone 5 and but also launched separate models for LTE in the markets where they make sense, like the U.S., Canada, and those European and Asian countries that support it.

Not all LTE operates on the same frequencies, so engineering even an international LTE radio wouldn't be dead simple, let alone a GSM/CDMA/LTE across all bands. Letting HSPA and CDMA continue to do what they do now, in markets that don't have other options, isn't a bad idea.

But if complexity and scarcity are still the case, why worry about LTE at all in 2012? Why not just wait until 2013?


Verizon and Sprint iPhone 4S and the limitations of CDMA

The current iPad and iPhone run at up to 14.4mbps on AT&T and GSM carriers. They run at 2-3mbps on Verizon's CDMA network. Apple went out of their way to avoid calling the HSPA+ iPhone 4S a "4G" phone last year, knowing if AT&T and others claimed it as such, Verizon's version would be made to look less-than by comparison.

That hasn't hurt Verizon's sales yet -- iPhone 4S set records on every carrier including Verizon, eclipsing devices with bigger screens and LTE radios on the same shelves -- but it likely hurts Verizon pride. With the best LTE deployment in the U.S. and a desire to use it that's so strong Verizon reportedly won't let Windows Phone and BlackBerrys on their network without LTE anymore, how happy would they be to sit on CDMA for another year, to again have to market an EVDO Rev. A iPad 3 and iPhone 5?

Apple could pull the trigger on LTE in 2012. In most markets they don't need to, but in the U.S. in general and Verizon in specific, there's reason to consider it. Doing two models -- HSPA+/CDMA for most of the world and LTE for Verizon and the other carriers that support it -- wouldn't be unprecedented for Apple, and could indeed be the best of both worlds.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Could Apple release a separate 4G LTE iPad 3 and Phone 5 in select markets?


That wouldn't address the problem in this article. Verizon doesn't support HSPA+ so their phone would still be slow

And thats the rest of the worlds problem? Verizon is the only CDMA iPhone network, all the rest are GSM and can easily support HSPA+. its better to support the majority.

I often travel to Europe and I'd like to know if this phone works there too. I mussae not, since it doesn't on the T-mobile and ATT networks here.Moreover, I don't get the reasoning of Verizon's plans. If I buy it with 2-year contract or month-to-month, the plan costs the same, while the phone more than doubles!If I pay the cost of the phone upfront (which I'd be will to do, especially if it works in Europe), I expect to pay LESS in monthly payment, since they are not subsiding my purchase. With this price policy, I'm holding my breath and won't buy.

With the current market demand for content consumption it will be silly not to have LTE in the new phones/tablets, apple or any other brand. The market is becoming more aware gen Y is in the workforce they love their gadgets and now they can afford it, you may argue what about GFC well just get in the bus and see how many people are on the web VIA a mobile device... Wait that's me included...
Great article.

Dear Debra,I respectfully rgsaidee and dispute the amount of debt/collection that T-Mobile USA claims I owe them. T-Mobile USA was not able to provide me with adequate and reliable internet service with a PC internet device I purchased from T-Mobile USA on 09/27/2010. When I purchased PC internet service through T-Mobile USA, the T-Mobile USA store representative stated to me verbally that T-Mobile USA had very strong internet connection service in the Troy and Oakland Twp., Michigan areas. The representative showed me a color chart of just how strong my internet connection would be and convinced me that I would have no problem connecting to the internet through their service. Prior to me canceling my internet service with T-Mobile USA, I contacted T-Mobile USA on at least three (3) separate occasions to inform them that I was unable to connect to the internet through their service on a reliable and consistent basis. When I first purchased PC internet service through T-Mobile USA, my internet connection was very good at my home in Oakland Twp., MI, and I had a fair connection at my office of employment in Troy, MI. As time progressed, my PC internet service became very poor at my office in Troy, MI. During the final 4– 5 months I had active PC internet service through T-Mobile USA, I was not able to make any internet connection whatsoever at my office in Troy, MI. However, I was still able to obtain a moderately fair PC internet connection at my home in Oakland Twp., MI. I made much effort to contact T-Mobile USA to let them know my PC internet service had rapidly diminished at my office in Troy, MI, and that my PC internet service had become somewhat weak at my home in Oakland Twp., MI. Upon T-Mobile receiving my first phone call, I was told by their service representative that T-Mobile USA’s engineers/technicians would look into the problem and try to make corrections. At the request of T-Mobile USA, I made a follow up phone call to T-Mobile about 7-10 days after I was told the problem would be corrected. My follow up phone call was to inform T-Mobile that I was still unable to make any PC internet connection at my office in Troy, MI. At that point, T-Mobile told me there was nothing more they could do to correct the problem. As time progressed, my PC internet service at my home became poor. My internet connections at home were sporadic and intermittent at best. Again, I contacted T-Mobile USA to inform them that my PC internet connection was less than adequate. T-Mobile USA put me in contact with a service technician to troubleshoot the problem. After going through a series of tests with the service technician, I was told by the T-Mobile USA service technician that T-Mobile USA’s internet signal was very weak in my area (Oakland Twp., MI). I was also told by the service technician that T-Mobile USA would try to make field corrections with their service engineers. Unfortunately, my PC internet service did not get any better.My last phone call to T-Mobile before canceling their internet service was to inform them that I still had an extremely weak internet signal at my home in Oakland Twp., MI, and that my computer was not able to stay connected to the internet on a regular and consistent basis. In fact, my internet service became so poor, at most times, I could not stay connected to the internet for more than several minutes at a time. I informed T-Mobile USA that I must cancel their internet service if they could not provide me with an adequate and reliable internet connection. I was then told by T-Mobile USA that there was nothing they could do improve my service. At that point I informed T-Mobile USA that I must cancel their internet service.It is not my responsibility to pay T-Mobile USA an early termination of fee of $200.00 since T-Mobile USA was not able to provide me with adequate and reliable internet service which was promised in a contract signed by T-Mobile USA and me. It is my contention that T-Mobile USA defaulted on our contract agreement as they were not able to hold up their end of the bargain. Did T-Mobile USA expect me to continue to pay them a monthly fee for internet service while they were unable to provide me with adequate and reliable internet connections? Now I ask you Debra Flow, is that fair? It is not fair.Please declare your Collection null and void and provide me with written proof that the amount of debt allegedly owed by me to T-Mobile USA has been terminated.Sincerely,Robert

It certainly should have LTE, if it wants to keep me anyway!
I think the model with no LTE will be the 4S, and the 5 will have LTE built in as well. Similarly Verizon's 4S has access to HSPA+ but it doesn't use it, non-LTE people will have LTE hidden in their phone for when the day comes.

No, Verizon is not a GSM network, therefore it can not use HSPA networks, simple as.
In the software, when you go abroad it will switch to the GSM network if it can't pick up a Verizon network but picks up an international roaming partner (Vodafone manage this for Verizon), and roam onto their network using a Vodafone UK SIM.

You mean iPhone 6? Not sure if people can count the phone versions.. Vzw and sprint do not have HSPA+, so good luck on that. If chip manufacturers can start pushing out products that are not battery monsters then yes it will. Can we talk about LTE iPhones any more? Pretty simple minded posts now..

Maybe the new iPhone is version F
A - iPhone, B-iPhone 3G, C-iPhone 3GS, D-iPhone 4, E-iPhone 4s
Maybe the new iPhone is version 4.0
1.0 - iPhone, 2.0-iPhone 3G, 2.1-iPhone 3GS, 3-iPhone 4, 3.1-iPhone 4s
Who cares. Based on the name given to the latest phone people know what you are talking about when you refer to iPhone 5.

LTE has to be coming in this new round, it just has to be. And this new MS8960 chip is one bad mother. It does it all:
The common LTE frequencies, 700 to 2600MHz, are used. It handles Cat. 3 LTE (up to 100Mbps) and Cat. 24 HSPA+ (up to 42Mbps), along with EV-DO Rev. B, 1x Advanced and TD-SCDMA (which is China Mobile's technology), as well as GSM, GPRS and EDGE. Oh, and there's also simultaneous support for GPS and GLONASS, along with Bluetooth, WiFi, FM radio and NFC.
This should be a good phone. The smaller size chip should allow at least the same amount of battery time on LTE like 3G does today on the 4S. Good, not great. But very good for LTE since it isn't as hungry as today's chips are. Things are looking good.

While they may have LTE, the iPhone 5 will not. iPhone 6, perhaps, but a phone called the iPhone 5 will never exist.

First of all, AT&T Blows, good job on doing your homework. On that note, ADMIN, you need to get your facts shtiagrt. AT&T Blows is correct, the first iPhone, dubbed the 2g now, was on the EDGE network. Apple initially went to Verizon, but verizon turned them down because they didn't want relations with a company that didn't produce phones as their main product.' Stupid, especially since they are pretty much the only carrier of LG phones! LG's main products are NOT cell phones. Anyway, T-Mobile was their 2nd choice, but they turned Apple down for the reasons specified by AT&T Blows. T-Mobile at the time was killing AT&T, that's why they merged with Cingular to heighten their revenue stream since Cingular was flopping worse than they were. AT&T was desperate, so they were willing to sign any contract that looked even REMOTELY lucrative. In hindsight, AT&T made a good decision and T-Mobile didn't, but hindsight, as it were, is 20/20. Logically, Apple would now start opening up the iPhone to other carriers starting with T-Mobile (the least costly transition), ESPECIALLY since over 60% of iPhone users are ALREADY ON T-MOBILE!!

I think they will make a great devices over this year and making 2 of each sounds like a good option for apple.
Whatever the outcome, be sure, you will be pleased.

I have this phone for two weeks now and i'm really glad that this was my chioce. I spent a lot of time checking reviews and playing with all the available smartphones but this is the best, maybe better than iPhone (though i was interested only in Android OS phones). And it seems like Galaxy Nexus is the best phone for 2012, at least till CES.

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