It was widely expected that Apple won’t launch a 4G LTE iPhone this year, so it didn’t come as a surprise that iPhone 4S – Apple’s fifth generation iPhone unveiled at yesterday’s Let’s talk iPhone event didn’t support 4G LTE networks.
However, the lack of redesigned iPhone 5Â and no 4G support seems to have raised expectations that Apple will launch a redesigned 4G LTE iPhone in the summer of 2012. The bad news is that it seems highly unlikely that Apple will be able to launch a 4G LTE iPhone before the third quarter of 2012.
Back in April, Will Strauss, President of wireless chip tracker Forward Concepts didn’t expect the appropriate 4G chipsets to arrive in time for the fifth generation iPhone. He had gone on to explain how Appleâ€™s competitors have managed to launch smartphones with 4G support:
The only 4G handset on the market in the United States, Verizonâ€™s Thunderbolt, currently relies on a pair of chips to work. One chip, from Samsung, communicates with Verizonâ€™s 4G networks, allowing the handset to achieve blazing data speeds of between 5 and 20 MBPS. Another chip, from Qualcomm, lets the handset talk to Verizonâ€™s 3G network.
That two chip solution is needed because Verizonâ€™s 4G network isnâ€™t widespread enough for the carriers to offer handsets that rely on 4G alone.
Strauss noted that Apple was looking for a solution where chips support 4G and 3G on a single chip so that the 4G LTE iPhone is as thin or thinner thanÂ iPhone 4Â and it doesnâ€™t consume too much battery life.
According to Strauss, chipmakers like Qualcomm, ST Ericcson and Intel were expected to launch the next generation chips that support 4G and 3G on a single chip towards the end of this year.Â But AnandTech reports that there has beenÂ a slower-than-expected transition to new 28-nanometer chip processes:
As you may have heard however, the move to 28nm at both TSMC and Global Foundries isn’t really going all that smoothly. The jump from 4x-nm to 28nm is a very big one, so it’s not unexpected to have pretty serious teething problems as the process ramps up. I suspect that an aggressive 28nm roadmap that didn’t pan out probably caught a lot of SoC and smartphone vendors in a position where they couldn’t ship what they wanted to in 2011.
AnandTech believes thatÂ Qualcomm’s MDM9615 modem is the ideal chip for Apple’s iPhone (especially since Qualcomm’s chip is probably used in iPhone 4S and also CDMA iPhone 4) and as you can see from the roadmap below, it is not scheduled to begin shipping until the second quarter of next year, which indicates that the earliest that the 4G LTE iPhone can be introduced is byÂ the third quarter of 2012.
We also expect Apple to launch a new iPhone with at least a year’s gap, as anything sooner may not go down with with iPhone 4S users. So expect iPhone 6 (not iPhone 5 as it would be odd for the sixth generation iPhone) to be launched around the same time next year.
So if you were planning to skip buying or upgrading to iPhone 4S in the hope that Apple will launch a 4G LTE iPhone in June or July then you might want to reconsider you decision.