LTE-Enabled iPhones To Roll Out At WWDC 2012?

Digitimes’ Daniel Shen and Steve Shen report that competition among handset vendors for a bigger share in the US LTE-enabled smartphone market is poised to intensify in 2012 when Sprint Nextel starts kicking off its LTE services at mid-year, according to industry sources in Taiwan.

Mid-year also happens to be when Apple holds its annual World Wide Developer’s Conference, which has traditionally (although not in 2011) been a launch pad for announcing iPhone upgrades and revisions. It’s a reasonable guess that the WWDC would be a logical time for Apple to roll out the next iPhone, whether it be an iPhone 5 or perhaps an iPhone 6 if it gets an A6 chip, which will be a possibility if Apple gets an A6-powered iPad 3 out the door in late winter 2012 as expected.

Consequently, there’s probable cause to anticipate that if things do unfold in that sequence, the next iPhone should have 4G/LTE capability.

Digitimes’ Shen and Shen say that according to Sprint’s roadmap, the company plans to launch 15 LTE-enabled end devices, including smartphones, tablet PCs and mobile data cards, for some designated areas in mid-2012 initially, according to their industry sources. They note that among smartphone vendors, HTC, Samsung Electronics, Motorola Mobility and LG Electronics already offer LTE-enabled models, with HTC currently taking up a 60% share of US 4G-compatible smartphone sales. However, what they’re hearing from insider sources is that Apple Nokia, RIM and Sony Ericsson are all expected to join the LTE club in 2012 as more telecom service providers around the globe launch LTE services in the coming year.

However, if Apple is to join the LTE club, it will require some technological advances in order to address what now Apple CEO Tim Cook described at Apple’s quarterly financial results announcement last April as first-generation LTE chipsets forcing “a lot of design compromises” that the company was unwilling to make at that time, and evidently still unwilling to make half a year later, since the iPhone 4S does not support LTE.

However, more indication that we can look for an LTE iPhone at WWDC 2012 in a recent CNET report citing Will Strauss, president of wireless chip market research firm Forward Concepts, who said current implementations of LTE in phones like the HTC ThunderBolt are still too kludgy for Apple’s tastes, but does anticipate a 4G iPhone reaching consumers next year. “They’re saving iPhone 5 for the LTE version and that won’t be out until next spring,” Strauss is quoted commenting.


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