Well, the two-week grace period surrounding the launch of the iPhone 4S is at an end – time to get back to the future iPhone rumors. The latest suggests Apple could be introducing a 4G LTE model of its smartphone with the next iteration.
The rumor comes by way of Apple Insider, citing anonymous sources speaking with DigiTimes who say they Apple is “expected” to try out an LTE version of its iPhone. Currently, HTC more or less dominates the 4G LTE market, but Samsung, Motorola and LG also offer phones. Next year, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, Sony Ericsson and Nokia are all releasing 4G LTE phones as well.
Apple is generally slow to adopt new technologies for its devices until those technologies are proven. It’s a part of the design philosophy that often keeps Apple off the cutting edge. 4G LTE devices are available right now, with all three major U.S. networks working to expand their coverage, but this allows Apple to make sure things work really well when they finally implement them. That’s key to Apple’s “it just works” business model, but it means fans often have to wait for the latest and greatest in mobile technology.
The other factor holding back Apple’s adoption of 4G LTE capabilities is that it’s a relatively young technology in terms of implementation. Verizon currently has the largest 4G LTE coverage numbers and intends to have 175 markets in the U.S. covered by the end of November. Sprint is also working hard on its LTE network, with plans to cover 120 markets by the end of this year and 260 by 2013. So by waiting, Apple is making sure it sells a device that works and, more importantly, is useful to a large number of its customers.
But by next year, many carriers all over the world will be plugging away at extending their 4G coverage. What’s more, 4G LTE speeds are significantly faster than 3G, between 5 and 12 megabits per second, according to Verizon, as compared to 2 Mbps for 3G data speeds. And while only about 30 carriers have 4G LTE networks worldwide right now, that number is expected to hit 100 by the end of next year, Apple Insider reports. “By 2015, LTE networks are expected to reach 290 million people, and sales of LTE smartphones are projected to top 154 million units.”
So it makes sense that Apple would want to be involved in the LTE wave eventually. This isn’t the first 4G rumor we’ve heard about the iPhone, either, and a 2012 launch might make some sense given the market. But previously, Apple’s now-CEO Tim Cook noted that 4G chipsets didn’t give the company the battery life customers expect to get out of the iPhone. Unless that issue has been solved, don’t expect a 4G LTE iPhone just yet.