Apple Skipping LTE, Planning Dual-Mode 3G iPhone for 2011


According to TechCrunch’s Steve Cheney, Apple won’t be introducing an LTE-capable handset when it launches its CDMA-based iPhone early in January, despite Verizon’s indication that it wouldn’t offer one otherwise. But Apple’s gone even further: Even its mid-year iPhone refresh won’t be getting 4G network support.

Instead, Apple will offer a dual-mode GSM/CDMA device when it refreshes the iPhone around June or July, according to sources. That handset will then be able to work universally on all networks worldwide, though it won’t be on the cutting edge of connectivity speeds. AT&T plans to launch LTE networks in 2011, and many other major international carriers have similar plans. Rogers in Canada, for instance, launched its first LTE trial just last week.

Apple made a similar move with its launch of the first iPhone, which came out in 2007 with only EDGE technology built-in, despite the wide availability of 3G on AT&T at the time. While it might seem like Apple is missing the boat, in truth avoiding the first line of 4G chips keeps costs down, and likely also leads to a better quality product finding its way to consumer hands.

Cheney’s sources turned out to be correct about the Verizon iPhone, which is now being confirmed by multiple major news outlets, and I think this latest report will also turn out to be true. It’s in keeping with how Apple has operated historically, and it makes sense from a business perspective. Apple doesn’t need to take a risk on 4G yet, since it probably isn’t a priority for the bulk of consumers who drive iPhone sales.

If providers manage to establish well-supported LTE networks by 2011, then we can expect Apple to move to the new standard with its 2012 device. But that’s a big if. Whenever they do make the switch, expect it to be a decision based on real consumer demand and supply chain maturity, not network CEO ultimatums and competitor baiting. In the meantime, even just a CDMA-capable version of the iPhone should translate into ample revenue to tide over Apple’s investors.

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