Why Apple’s Next iPhone Might Not Be 4G

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]


    • Depends on the underlying hardware; if it were a simple software fix then there’s a whole bevy of 4G devices (including the 3rd Gen iPad) that would already be Australian “4G” compatible. Multi-frequency chipsets are coming, but whether the new iPhone has one that’ll conform to the Australian networks is yet to be seen. Not out of the question, but by no means confirmed. Do you see?

  • | Adding additional radios won’t be free

    What? The whole point of having a “world mode” chip is so that you don’t have to have additional radios that each support different frequencies…it means apple wouldn’t have to release different versions of the iphones like they did with the iphone 4.

    • Apple did, what, two versions of the iPhone 4 — both for the US market. That’s not exactly a world release. As per the article, again, there’s a LOT of LTE bands to cover, and it’s highly unlikely that it’ll support all of them. Perhaps radios isn’t the right word in this context, but the point is that even just testing for all those frequencies would be a stiff cost to bear.

  • my gut feeling tells me the poor initial 4g implementation in the ipad 3 and the ongoing uncertainty regarding future 4g implementations is at least in part related to fear of legal action being commenced against them. apple’s portfolio is light on 4g patents, while samsung’s is strong. iphone 5 4g will have a big target on its back.

        • Just going to point out that four of those countries (including australia) are in the G20. The median GDP per capita is $40800 US which is very comparable to the US ($46000 US) and the UK ($36,400 US) indicating that those countries have the capacity to by apples product. When looking at the complete stats for the entire bad, the median gdp per capita is $24700 US and the total population covered by the 1800mhz LTE band is 404 million people . (source: wolfram alpha)

          I would say its pretty likely that if the Iphone 5 supports world LTE, australian LTE bands will be support. Whether telcos have the capacity to handle it is a different question entirely though…

  • “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”.”

    Yeah but that’s still several years off happening yet. The carriers aren’t going to be bidding for that bandwidth space until later in the year, then the analogue TV signals need to be switched off at the end of next year. Even though Optus and Telstra have both indicated they want to use the frequency, we shouldn’t expect to actually see it happen until 2015 at the earliest.

    There’s absolutely no need for any devices to support 700Mhz yet. At least not in Australia.

  • I remember when shopping for new phones when Next G was relatively new, having to check phones to make sure they supported the 3G 850 MHz frequency (when they weren’t sold by Telstra anyway). So much confusion! Now we’ll be reliving it all over again with 4G! lol.

  • Take note which of those 1800Mhz countries received the #4&S handsets originally at the *world-wide* release…..wonder if they/us will get them next week – or in a few months??
    Sure….fine ‘Apple’ for people not knowing if 4G was available in Aust…but now wait for longer before getting the new hardware…..*steps off soapbox*

    • I hate people who hate apple and believe all of them should be sent to live in North Korea for half the year, and the other half some war ravaged African country. 🙂

    • +1 The way Apple have behaved is disgusting. For them to go around and try and get all of their competitors (whose products are vastly superior) banned should not be condoned. To claim they invented the rectangle with rounded corners? To claim they invented applying pinch-to-zoom (which was invented in the 70s) to a phone? To claim they invented scrolling on a touchscreen device? To claim they invented the green phone icon(when the phone icon on phones 20 years ago was green)? Need I go one?

  • It is something a US carrier uses? No? Then Apple doesn’t give a shit.

    Need I remind everyone how late to the table they were with MMS? And tethering being a carrier-based option?

  • Mate if Samsung can build different Frequency 4g S3’s then this should not be any reason why apple can do the same.

    Unless apple get sued by samsung if their little girl fight…

    I sure do hope all leaks of the Iphone 5 are false. Alot of people who have leaked the iphone 5 say that apple gave a mock up phone to case company’s so they can produce cases.

    To be honest… As if apple give a Shit about case company’s and trying to help them build cases for their new phones but get nothing out of it for them selves.

    I think this leaked phone is a dummy sent out by apple to trick everyone and apple will come out with something completely Different… Well i hope so anyway because lets face it. This new iPhone 5 leak is crap. Same old iPhone but taller.. Apple cant be serious about that upgrade…

    If the new iPhone is exactly the same as the leaks and does not have 4g, Im sorry but i will have to make the move to the S3 4g Even though i really dont like android.

    What you guys think?

  • Yup.. meanwhile they are able to produce AT&T, Verizon etc “models” of the handset for specific carriers. Why don’t Telstra put their hands up for a Telstra Model? Would make sense to me.

    • There was no AT&T handset, it was the the normal GSM handset that was sold all over the world. The Verizon model was CDMA. They only existed in the iPhone4, 4S supports GSM and CDMA in one unit.

  • It’s almost certain that the new iPhone will not support Australian 4G LTE networks, because they know that die hard Apple/iPhone users will upgrade no matter what, and they can extract even more money from customers down the track when they release an incremental update which does support LTE.

    Nothing new here, it’s how Apple operates.

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