Why Apple's Next iPhone Might Not Be 4G

Reports indicate that Apple’s next iPhone may support “worldwide” 4G frequencies. It’s not out of the question, but equally, it’d pay to keep some perspective on the whole issue.

There’s only a few days until Apple unveils its latest iPhone — or at least, that’s what the overly-active rumour mills would have us believe, with the latest iteration being perhaps the most leaked iPhone ever. If the reports on, variously, its screen size, shrunken connector, internal components and battery capacity are to be believed, there isn’t actually all that much that we don’t already know about the new iPhone.

The latest leaks suggest that it’ll be 4G LTE compatible, and indeed that it’ll support more than just the limited 4G LTE frequencies used in the US — the same ones that got Apple into so much hot water with the ACCC when it initially marketed the 3rd generation iPad as being ‘4G’ — which raises the prospect that it could run on Australian 4G networks.

It’s always feasible that this is exactly what Apple will announce early Thursday Australian time, but it’s far from a confirmed thing. The Wall Street Journal reports on Apple’s rumoured LTE plans, noting that

“Analysts have widely expected the new phone to support LTE. It isn’t likely to work with all carriers’ LTE networks in all countries, the people said, though it wasn’t clear which would be left out.”

But at the same time, that

“…there are 36 LTE bands around the world, compared with 22 bands for the most popular version of 3G technology.”

That’s not just a technical challenge to overcome; it’s also a cost problem. Apple’s profitability in recent years hasn’t just been a function of it charging very high prices; it’s closed the gap with many of its competitors due to incredibly fierce negotiation for parts prices and labour costs, often controversially.

Adding additional radios won’t be free, and as such, connecting to every type of LTE would be an expensive exercise. Australia’s current 1800Mhz LTE networks, as operated by Telstra and Optus do have a shot at being compatible, given they’re not unique to Australia, but it’s far from a certain thing, and even within Australia there’s movement in the 4G space towards other bands such as 700Mhz, which Optus at least is on the record as saying is the “right frequency for regional networks”.

New iPhone to Support LTE [Wall Street Journal]

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