Next Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 Apple is set to unveil their new iPhone. Reportedly, it will sport fourth-generation cellular networking.
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal says Apple’s next iPhone will work with some but not all 4G LTE networks in the U.S. and other countries when it’s released.
It will work on the fastest wireless networks around the world—including in the U.S., Europe and Asia—though it is unlikely to be available on every carrier, people familiar with the matter said.
AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have 4G LTE networks in the U.S. These networks, along with those in other countries use differing frequencies.
4G LTE technology was largely expected ahead of last year’s iPhone model, the iPhone 4S. Apple choose to go with HSPA+, a slightly speedier 3G technology instead.
Nonetheless, Apple brought the technology to its third-generation iPad, which arrived five months after the iPhone 4S. Apple got around the frequency problem by offering carrier-specific models in the U.S. and other countries.
The technical compatibility with so-called LTE networks removes a big competitive danger for Apple and gives carriers a chance to sell their fastest data services to Apple’s huge base of iPhone customers.
Smartphone makers, including market leader Samsung Electronics Co., have begun offering LTE phones globally. That has given them a selling point that to this point Apple has lacked. Carriers are eager to drive more customers to those networks, which are more efficient and could spur faster growth in data revenue by making it easier for consumers to use services like streaming video.
Apple is expected to unveil its latest iPhone, which will also have a slightly larger screen, at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 12. 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.
LTE technology is much more fragmented than the previous third generation wireless technology, making it more difficult to make LTE phones that work seamlessly around the world. International Data Corp. analyst John Byrne estimates there are 36 LTE bands around the world, compared with 22 bands for the most popular version of 3G technology.
While building a phone that supports multiple bands of LTE is theoretically possible, it presents a significant technical challenge to design chips with multiple radio antennas needed to support all of the different bands.
“It’s like patchwork quilt in terms of spectrum,” said Bill Davidson, senior vice president of Qualcomm Inc., which designs LTE computer chips. “It will be impractical to have all of the bands.”
The new iPad, introduced in March, was the first Apple device to support LTE technology. But it only worked with networks operating by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. in the U.S., and Bell Canada, Rogers CommunicationsInc. and Telus Corp. in Canada.
IDC data shows that only three countries in the world have significant numbers of LTE customers: the U.S., South Korea and Japan. Verizon currently has the largest LTE network in the world and the highest number of LTE subscribers, says IDC.
At the end of the first quarter, Verizon Wireless had about 9 million LTE subscribers, while South Korea’s SK Telecom Co. Ltd. came in second with 2.75 million and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. came in third with 2.23 million, said IDC.
In Europe, the availability of LTE wireless service lags behind some other parts of the world. For the time being, there is LTE service in Scandinavia, as well as some in Germany and elsewhere. But in many places, it is still in its infancy. In France, for instance, the rollout is just beginning in a handful of major cities—and not yet Paris.
IDC says Android phones supporting LTE are currently being sold in 11 countries including the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia and Germany.
Although profitable, the iPhone’s lead in the smart phone market has been overtaken by phones running Google’s Android operating system, and Apple’s longtime rival Microsoft is making aggressive moves into the mobile space as well.
This is also the first major product launch in which Apple’s deceased CEO, Steve Jobs isn’t part of, though there was speculation that the iPhone 5 was the last project he worked on before he died.
So in the absence of Jobs it will be interesting to compare this release with previous releases.
One definite feature that the iPhone 5 will have is iOS 6, the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. iOS 6 promises a slew of new features, and one of them are upgrades to the popular Siri.
Siri will be able to communicate in more languages, tweet, launch apps and will now be able to integrate into hands-free car systems.
One interesting upgrade that iOS 6/iPhone 5 will have is greater Facebook integration. Users will be able to log into Facebook through the operating system and apps will be able to access Facebook seamlessly.
The integration with Facebook is so deep that Facebook events and birthdays will be synched into the iPhones calendar.
Because the relationship between Apple and Google has been rocky lately, the Map app will no longer be powered by Google but by a system that Apple is creating.
The YouTube app will too be dropped from iOS 6 as well. YouTube videos will still be played through the Safari web browser, and it’s assumed that Google will make a new YouTube app for the iPhone.
Although Apple was more forthcoming on the new iOS, they’ve been secretive on the actual features of the new iPhone itself.
Various unconfirmed pictures of the iPhone 5 have surfaced on the Internet. The images show a phone that looks similar to the iPhone 4, but with some new touches. One of the most notable changes is the two-tone back plate.
The back plate is speculated to be made out of “liquidmetal,” a metal alloy that’s said to be twice the strength of titanium and is as easy to process as plastic, an excellent material to make mobile phones out of.
Apple bought out patents on “liquidmetal” two years ago.
The two-tone look is believed to accommodate Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that is allowing the iPhone to be used as a “digital wallet.” This means that a user could use the iPhone as a credit and debit card substitute.
The display will most likely be a retina display, much like its larger cousin, the iPad 3. It’s also getting There will be a faster processor, and it’s been rumored that the iPhone 5 will have 1 gigabyte of RAM to run apps off of and up to 128 gigabytes of storage space.
a small size boost as the iPhone 5’s screen will be 4 inches compared to the 4gs’s 3.5 inch size.
Contributor D. Chandler