The Next iPhone: Are We Ready for 4G?

98 Comments

When the fanfare of the iPad (s aapl) launch begins to diminish, eyes will begin to look to the fast approaching summer and seek an updated iPhone. Though rumors of the iPhone 4.0 OS are circulating, there’s been little talk about what could be next for the iPhone hardware. Will it take design cues from the iPad with an aluminum enclosure, though that would feel in some ways to be a step backwards? More importantly, is the time right for the iPhone to take the leap to 4G?

A Bit of History

Three years ago when the handset launched, the iPhone was a 2G device. As a quick bit of history to what all of these G’s mean, Wikipedia offers the definition that the naming conventions “generally refer to a change in the fundamental nature of the service.” For example, 2G represented the switch from analog phones to digital ones (the iPhone was never analog). 3G brought multimedia support (recall how the iPhone 3.0 OS didn’t bring MMS support to original iPhones). True 4G networks represent all IP packet switched networks and as a result, consumers benefit from increases in data speeds.

3G is based on two parallel infrastructures of circuit-switched and packet-switched networks. To get a quick idea of the difference, a circuit switched network involves securing a circuit from the origin to the destination. Packet switching involves segmenting the comment into individual packets that can be routed individually (and even take different paths) to reach the destination where they are then reassembled in order. From a technical perspective, this is a much better utilization of resources as capacity isn’t wasted on circuit switching when the circuit may not be in continuous use.

The general idea behind 4G is to provide “a comprehensive and secure all-IP based solution where facilities such as IP telephony, ultra-broadband Internet access, gaming services and streamed multimedia” can be provided to users. Pulling this off, however, involves meeting standards set forth by the International Telecommunication Union. To be in compliance and really be operating at 4G standards, the cellular system must have “target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 megabits per second for high mobility” like mobile access and up to 1 gigabit per second for low mobility, like local wireless access. That’s a very high bar compared to current standards, even compared to what most of you probably have for broadband at home.

The Road Ahead

On the road to 4G, you might encounter something called 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE). Though it technically doesn’t comply with all of the 4G specs (mostly in terms of speed), you’ll still see this branded as 4G. Since last year, that’s where most networks have been headed. LTE promises to bring some speed improvements (and hopefully latency improvements too, as that’s a big issue that really affects how the true speed is perceived).

With the increase of iPhone users on AT&T’s (s att) network in the U.S., there are places across the country where strains are felt during heavy usage times. This reality mixed with the expensive cost and rollout of 4G service means that carriers will continue to invest in their 3G networks, which is a win to everyone. In fact, iPhone 3GS users are capable of taking advantage of the HSPA 7.2 megabits per second speeds if in a compatible market. Trials for this began last year and the technology is still being rolled out over this year.

AT&T announced in February that its next-generation 4G network wouldn’t be available until 2011, though trials would begin later this year. So will the next iPhone be the iPhone 4G? Most likely. The iPhone 3GS was released before AT&T’s networks had upgraded to offer the faster speed and I predict a similar case with this year’s iPhone model. Will Apple call it the iPhone 4G? Especially considering there aren’t plans for a 5G or 6G network in immediate future? That remains to be seen but if I had any say in the matter, I’d prefer it to just be called the iPhone.

What are your thoughts? Do you have the iPhone 3GS and does the network feel faster in your neighborhood? Are you like me and still have the 3G, hoping that the next iPhone will be a substantial upgrade? Drop us a line and tell us what you think.

98 Comments

fredy275

I dont think that the next generation iphone is going to have 4g speeds because of AT&t limited network, unless they choose to really do decide to join hands with Verizon because of Apple’s ending contract with AT&T this year! And that will allow to have video calls on the iphone over 4G!

zegor

The iPhone was years ahead of other mobile devices. Now with some really intense competition in the mobile market – Apple, Google and BlackBerry and you can’t forget the old players like Nokia, Motoralla – it’ll be interesting to see the results.

For now, though, I’m quite content with my iPhone 3G. :)

Koli

i am on a iphone 3G right now. next phone will be one with android. i am sick of apple’s strategy of not being able to use bluetooth, the iphone as a usb drive and all the other ridiculous restrictions they impose on this device.

all this stuff has cost me way too much time, so i could for example sync two macs with one iphone (not possible, you can not even copy music to the iphone without applying hacks)

♥pixel8design♥

I’M READY! :D

I don’t have an iPhone, yet… but I’ve been watching them since their introduction in–what–2007?

I’d actually LOVE an aluminum enclosure similar to the iPad. I’d love the looks, feel and the environmental-friendliness of it too (and it would match my MacBook).

What I’m REALLY waiting for, however, is a switch from AT&T to Verizon. If I could somehow get an iPhone plan to work with my family plan, I’d be one satisfied customer.

Does anyone know if I can perhaps get a used iPhone and use ALL the features but the phone/texting? I’ve been looking into the iPod Touch because I don’t have the income to pay for the iPhone. I want it to be able to do my online classes away from home (opposed to hauling my MacBook everywhere) and use the iPod feature. I DO want an iPhone eventually, so I’m wondering if it would work with the WiFi, but not the 3G network and still be good? I would use the WiFi, and have it for when I CAN afford it… instead of buying the Touch for the WiFi and then buying the iPhone when I can afford it..

Any ideas? Thanks!

Michelle

I have the iphone 8gb 3g. I absolutely love everything about this phone! I have little to no complaints. I have been with At & T for many years and I guess I am pretty lucky in that I am happy with the service. I do not use the iphone for business or all that it is capable of doing. It is kinda hard to decide if one should upgrade or wait for the newest hottest greatest thing that will come out.

Jayness

What is quite amusing is how behind the US is in terms of 3G networking. I live in Australia and work in the Mobile industry – and i travel around the world often.

The US is the ONLY market i have ever been to that does not sell prepaid sim cards for iPhones. Please correct me if I am wrong!!!! This is a terrible experience for international roaming customers who want to use a local sim rather than pay the ridiculous (up to US$50 per mb!!) roaming charge for data.

But aside from that, generally speaking most other countries also have much better coverage for their 3G. There is no doubt in my mind that the US has the worst. Why is that? I’m very curious… and i would like to hazard a guess…

There are two significant differences between the US market and most other markets:

1. Interconnect fees. The US doesnt have them. So the person who owns the mobile phone, in some form, pays to receive the call. Every other country the person who makes the call has to pay and the receiving network receives an ‘interconnect fee’ from the calling network.

2. Unlimited plans for data & calls. The US is definitely a market leader on this, with (to my knowledge) the closest country offering the same for about double the price. Even though they receive interconnect fees (which subsidise the cost of supplying the service).

So in summary – i would hazard a guess that the US networks do not charge enough compared to other countries, and that is why it is unable to supply something of equal standard. Too many users. Too much unlimited use. Too much bottleneck. The only way they can get out of this is if the cost for building the infrastructure is reduced significantly. Let’s hope that happens soon!

HMMM

Or maybe, just maybe, The United States is bigger than most of the countries in the world. Also, we have the oldest backbone to upgrade since we were usually the first in everything that the world now enjoys.

Iphone Addict

Lol, I think you’ll find England is usually first at most things!

Jon

Ok HMMM, don’t get cocky. We know you’re always bigger and better than everyone else. We have yank tourists telling us that all the time and, frankly, just laugh that they seem to be so insecure that they have to prove something. I have lived in the States and wouldn’t swap life in Australia for your life any day. I prefer having all the technological goodies AND all the benefits of a young, enterprising government and forward-thinking people any day.

The Mananger Guy

gotta agree that is kinda cocky Hmmm…I’m all-american and I’m hoping you’re just being sarcastic, otherwise that’s an ugly way to think

Adrian

I live in Finland. I’ve got this nice unlimited plan that’s 9.80 EUR/month (13 USD). Okay, it’s got 384 kbps bandwidth limit but that’s more than adequate for me. For 19.80 EUR/month there’d be 1 Mbps plan and a 5 Mbps plan for 34.90 EUR/month.

The network coverage is very good and you’re able to get the fastest 3.5G connection in most places.

I think that the heavy competition between the carriers is pushing the prices down.

dave

I hope they start make a 4G phone and offer it on sprints 4G network that will be available in all major markets by the end of the year. if i wasn’t stuck in this damn att contract i would switch to sprint and try there new htc evo phone which i hate to say looks like it one ups my iphone a little. i think apple will step it up or at least i hope they do for the next version of the iphone. and please go to sprint or at least verizon or i will be saying bye bye to my beloved iphone when this contract expires in 8 monthes!

suitenectar

The day the iPhone is available for Verizon, I will be standing in line to get one. Verizon is far and away the best U.S. provider overall, but the iPhone has yet to be matched by Blackberry, Palm, or any other company. Surely the geniuses at Apple know that even though they have sold millions of iPhones in the U.S. with AT&T as their sole carrier, they could have sold millions more with Verizon… AND THEY STILL CAN! Bring it on.

Jackie

Verizon sucks. Apple will NEVER let the IPhone go to them. Jeez Sprint is better than Verizon. The tier of phone companies is as follows:

1. AT&T
2. Sprint
3. US Cell
4. T-Mobile
5. Verizon

I think Cricket wireless might be better than Verizon. :)

lisa Overton

What planet do you live on? I’m not being a smart-aleck, I’m just wondering where you live that you get better coverage on those four than on Verizon. I’ve never even heard of US Cell. I’ve resisted the iPhone for a long time now hoping the would be available on Verizon but my old phone is dying and I’m not buying another non-iPhone even if it means I have to use Skype to make calls. Has anyone had experience with the Skype App?

Ken

For at least the next year, more likely more, LTE (and WiMax) will be data only overlay networks for the voice services.

Thus – on ATT – LTE will carry data, but the underlying GSM/UMTS network will carry the voice. Similarly for Verizon – except voice will remain on the CDMA network. Similarly for Sprint – except the overlay network will be WiMax.

I think too early for an LTE phone this year … the next year will be all about data only options (mobile hotspots, USB modems) for most 4G networks.

The exception is likely to be Sprint .. that will attempt to make its bet on WiMax work by introducing a 4G phone early … probably tomorrow at CTIA. But it will carry voice on Sprint’s underlying CDMA network – not over WiMax.

Malinda

Still using the 3G and hoping to upgrade to the next iPhone release… then my husband will get my 3G hand me down :-)

KB

I believe the next iPhone will only be the 4th Generation iPhone, not 4G. The only way I see that happening this year will be if when AT&T’s exclusivity runs out, the add Sprint as a carrier. They are the closest network to 4G coverage. Like I said earlier, I’m certainly more concerned with the new hardware and OS than the type of network it’ll be on. I’m looking for the front facing camera, and the ability to view my home pages in landscape (hopefully there will be a full revamp of the OS).

Shane

That’s a difficult call.

It makes sense to keep the naming in association with the network capabilities of the phone, it’s just worked so well.

The problem I see is, if 4G networks are more then a year away, while would apple choose to effectively shoot themselves in the foot for future upgrade possibilities?

While release a “4G” capable phone when no (full) 4G network actually exists now? Why not wait until the networks have them running (in some form) and release it then, when people are really looking to upgrade to take advantage of the new networks?

My feeling is, well see another “stop gap” release, like the 3GS, probably with more capacity, better internal speed and possibly with a restricted OS (so that the “new” phone is the only one that can run OS 4)

As to if I would upgrade. Yes, I’d probably be eager to get the next generation, regardless of weather it has 4g support or not, ‘e-old 3g is starting to feel old and there are too many 3gs only apps I want

cakes

I’ve got an iPhone 3G, and I’m planning on upgrade to whatever new iPhone Apple comes out with. Assuming it’s a 4G, the thing I’m worried about is a data rate plan hike! AT&T’s data plan went from 2G at $20 to 3G at $30. Will 4G mean $40? Will it introduce tiered pricing to try to deal with data hogs? My cell network data usage is less than 200mb, so might I even be up for a rate cut under a tiered pricing plan?

Jackie

How do you have an IPhone and only use 200mb of data per month. There is really no point to you having an IPhone. You should think about a more basic phone so you do not have to get ripped off on the monthly data plan.

cakes

Jackie, I’m on wifi a lot. At the office and at home. But the point (for me) of having an iPhone is so much more than just data. I now have one device instead of an additional iPod (I listen to my music, iPods, and watch videos (that i’ve previously downloaded via wifi at home or with my synced iTunes) on the go and on commute). And the Apps. They don’t get any better than on the iPhone platform. Moreover, the iPhone gives me flexibility to do email and work on the go. As it’s a productivity thing, my work pays for my data plan. And we get a discount on my family plan thru my wife’s company.

So it ain’t all that bad. But still i wouldn’t mind saving a few more bucks if tiered pricing brought down my costs because i’m not clogging the network with excessive streaming media and downloads.

quandmeme

+1 on the return to “iPhone”
Also totally agree with the comment that it will be driven by worldwide availability of 4G.
Personally, give me a 3GS with even better battery and faster app switching like I would hopefully see in the A4’s iPhone equivalent and I would be very happy.

While it is actually the software tweaks that I really want, I don’t think that will keep Apple’s buzz going. There has to be more. Looking at where others are going, I see better outdoor visibility and better cameras in other phones. I like RFID but think Apple will use any space they can squeeze for battery.

Terence

Dont think it’s gonna have 4th Generation Network capabilities. Still think it should be “Iphone 4G” like in “Iphone 4th Generation”. Always thought that assigning Generations to Networks is kind of stupid. Is cable = tv broadcast 2G? Besides, everybody’s callin it 4G right now, so why confuse ’em …

Eric

I’ll believe it when I see it. 3GS is way faster than my 2G and along with the apps, 3G changed the way I use the iPhone. Our family uses iPhones like small computers.

3Gis still far too slow in many situations and the coverage in Northern Calofornia is often very poor. I think Apple needs to open the iPhone up to other carriers for consumers to get the best possilbe service through increased competition.

I also resent paying so much money for the iPhone and for monthly service not to be able to use it with foreign SIMs when I travel out of the country.

Trian

AT&T has been trying to upgrade for months now and has finally caught up. When the next iPhone is released, people will be expecting faster speeds on a network that is going to get bogged down TREMENDOUSLY.

The service won’t be able to handle the record crowds first off but record crowds wanting FASTER service then what it usually gives

Matt

I’ve been thinking about this myself.

Apple kind of backed themselves into a corner when the began calling the 3G the iPhone 3G. This gave rise to the need for the unwieldy 3GS moniker. Which then begs your question: what next? The iPhone 3GS 2?

If you can recall the splitting of the original iPod, something similar here will probably happen. They introduced a color iPod but kept around the old one, so had to call it iPod Photo, but then collapsed the two when prices became lower for the color screens.

So, my bet is that they fade out the 3G and return to plain ‘ol “iPhone” at some point in the near future. But, who knows, the cell business is different than computers where Apple has gotten away with uni-branded consumer names (MacBook 2001 and 2010 are both sold as “MacBook”), so I could be wrong.

As to the iPhone 4G; no way. Not for at least another year, if not two.

James

go in microsoft way better,
iPhone home
iPhone home basic
iPhone ultimate
iPhone professional

MikeDolan

How about just iPhone 4, 5, 6… They can come up with something cool later….

Gazoobee

@ Ted: You’re thinking USA centric.

This decision is a world-wide one for Apple. I don’t pretend to have any idea whether it will be in the next iPhone, but the decision on 4G will be based on whether any markets exist that have the technology, not just when the USA or AT&T roll out the tech.

My understanding is that there are markets in Europe and Japan that already have LTE so I would expect that they might include it in the next iPhone, but no one really knows.

Ted

No one has LTE working yet. The standards that we are using in the US are the same worldwide. The only version of 4G that is working and will have a phone on it before long is WiMax.

Jim

Also @ Ted – there are live LTE networks in Scandinavia today, albeit rather sparse on devices, so your comment about no-one having LTE working is incorrect. While the WiMAX and LTE standards may be the same gloabally, frequency/spectrum allocation and channelization are not. For example, it will not be possible for a 700MHz Verizon LTE device to work in Europe or pretty much anywhere else outside the US unless it also concurrently supports other frequencies. This all contributes to issues with radio module type, device form factor, antenna design and battery life.

Jim

Also @ Ted – there are live LTE networks in Scandinavia today, albeit rather sparse on devices, so your comment about no-one having LTE working is incorrect. While the WiMAX and LTE standards may be the same globally, frequency/spectrum allocation and channelization are not. For example, it will not be possible for a 700MHz Verizon LTE device to work in Europe or pretty much anywhere else outside the US unless it also concurrently supports other frequencies. This all contributes to issues with radio module type, device form factor, antenna design and battery life.

daedana

I don’t currently use iPhone. I have just a Nokia 2330, which is good, but in future if I need a phone that will be more capable at surfing the web, iPhone will hopefully be the phone of choice.

Ted

I do not think that iPhone 4.0 will be 4G. Yes, AT&T is rolling out trials of 4G this year, but that is only for 4G data, not true 4G voice. We are at least a year off from that, as most of the standards for 4G haven’t been finalized yet by the ITU. Apple is big on releasing technology before anyone else, but this one is a little too big for them to try. I think we are going to get air cards left and right from AT&T and Verizon on 4G, and then late 2011 we’ll start to see phones popping up.

crazyleo

opera has just answered your prayers and submitted opera mini to the app store *finger crossed*

jack

My question is, will the iphone go to Verizon or stay with AT&T?

Skeptic

As a frequent traveler, I used to like the ability of taking my GSM phone with me, swapping out my SIM card for a local one in another country, and using my phone there (complete with contacts, messages, settings, etc.). It would be great if I could do this with my iPhone (I mean legally). I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s cursed their iPhone (despite loving it oh so much) for this very reason. So will the iPhone 4G finally be unlocked? I hope this year will finally be the year!

pk de cville

The iPhone will definitely continue with AT&T. The timing for adding Verizon depends on new hardware functionality (LTE radio added to the current GSM).

Apple will probably ship the LTE/GSM iPhone in Jun 2011; very surprising if they ship it this Jun.

Seb Leclerc

I think the iPhone 4g will be capable of connecting to 4g network to be sure it will take advantage of this new network without getting an “iPhone 4gs”.

For now I’m thinking about switching to iPhone but can’t make up my mind if I’m getting an iPhone 3GS or waiting for the iPhone 4G comming in June/July. =P

verticalbeatle

I’m in the same boat, hanging on with an old Blackberry Pearl… it’ll be worth waiting it out though, imagine getting on an 18/24 month fixed contract with a 3GS the same month Apple drops the 4G. It’d be hellish.

KB

I’m probably one of very few to say this but I still have my 2G and LOVE it. Quite honestly I have never experienced the network issues so many others complain about and the 3G and 3GS were not significant enough upgrades for me to change. I am still waiting for the front facing camera that allows iChat. Come on Steve (Jobs), You know it’ll be revolutionary, go ahead and blow the competition out the water!

Bill St. Clair

I still don’t have 3G service where I live, yet I must pay $30/month for it. Will they up the fee for 4G even though I doubt I’ll have that any time soon either? Sure wish I could pay $20/month for the $20/month service I get here. I’d happily pay an extra $10 during any month that I actually connect to 3G in a city somewhere. Most months that doesn’t happen. Of course, it would be better to just get 3G, or 4G, and have the internet on my iPhone be faster than my DSL. That would make tethering look mighty nice.

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