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8/15/2011
11:54 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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LTE iPhone Being Tested By Carriers

Apple's wireless network operator partners are already conducting field tests of an iPhone with high-speed Long Term Evolution technology on board.

Long Term Evolution 4G has made it to just a few smartphones this year, most of them being Android devices sold by Verizon Wireless. More are on the way. AT&T might launch one LTE-equipped smartphone by the end of the year, though details about that device are pretty much nil. None of these are (or will be) an LTE-powered Apple iPhone.

An LTE iPhone is in the works, though, reports BGR.com. It fact, the LTE iPhone is already being tested by the carriers. The site explained, "BGR has obtained evidence of an internal iOS test build from one of Apple's major carrier partners, and buried in the firmware is a property list (.plist file) for LTE."

Well, duh. Of course Apple and its carrier partners are testing an LTE iPhone.

Carrier testing takes time. Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless's CEO, said in January when the company announced the iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless that it tested the iPhone 4 for a full year before launch. Certainly Verizon Wireless is already testing the next-generation iPhone from Apple, as well as an LTE variant of the Apple iPhone.

AT&T is probably testing an LTE iPhone, too, along with a handful of other LTE handsets and/or devices. Preparing wireless handsets for use on live networks can last anywhere from three to 12 months.

This doesn't mean the next version of the iPhone will have LTE on board.

At that same news conference in January, Apple COO Tim Cook said that Apple wasn't ready to jump on the 4G bandwagon yet. He said that adding 4G to the iPhone would lead to "design concessions" that Apple wasn't prepared to make. In other words, include Long Term Evolution (or WiMax) would likely force Apple to create a bigger iPhone, and one with poorer battery life. We all know Apple's obsession with making things thin.

Most of the reports about the next-gen iPhone to-date have agreed that it probably won't have 4G on board. Instead, the sixth-generation iPhone will make the jump to 4G. Without 4G and/or LTE, will the fifth-gen iPhone be a failure? Not necessarily.

AT&T, Apple's long-time distribution partner, will have a speedy HSPA+ network available in much of the country by the time the next-gen iPhone actually hits the street. This network should provide mobile broadband speeds that are fast enough for most users for the time being. AT&T will actually have a bit of an advantage over rival Verizon Wireless, as its HSPA+ network is faster than Verizon's CDMA-EVDO 3G network. We'll certainly see advertising campaigns that call this out.

Bottom line: Yes, a 4G iPhone is being worked on by Apple and its partners, but it isn't necessarily going to be released this year as the iPhone 5.

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