Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

David Zax

A View from David Zax

Is a 4G LTE iPhone on the Way?

Undoubtedly. But reports that carriers are testing such a model tell us relatively little about just when we might see it.

  • August 23, 2011

Mobile carriers are testing an iPhone with LTE capability, reports Boy Genius Report, the recent king of Apple-related leaks. It even has action shots of code that it says are a smoking gun.

Why should we care about 4G LTE? First, a quick refresher one why this is exciting (at least, to geeks who get excited about such things). LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is an extension of the GSM technology currently used around most of the world. A few Android phones already use it. Essentially, it’s the next major communications standard, and it’s going to make everything faster. In theory, at least, it could offer 100 Mbps download, which MacLife points out “runs circles around current mobile speeds and even eclipses most home broadband.” (In reality, in the near-term, LTE speeds won’t move at such a clip; Verizon promises 5-12 Mbps.)

With the promise of such speeds, everyone has been wondering when 4G LTE will be coming to that totem of modernity, the iPhone. And with an iPhone 5 release nearing (sometime in September, say most sources), everyone’s wondering in particular if the next iPhone might employ the new standard. Does BGR’s finding mean a 4G LTE iPhone is imminent?

In a word, unlikely. Kudos to BGR for digging up proof of the fact, but it should come as no surprise that Apple’s carrier partners are testing a 4G LTE model of the iPhone. As Eric Zeman of InformationWeek puts it succinctly, “Well, duh.” Testing takes time, he points out: “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.” LTE is undoubtedly the future of communications, and we’d be surprised if all major players in telecommunications weren’t testing such devices. What might be more useful would be to know for how long carriers have been testing this LTE iPhone–but BGR doesn’t illuminate that matter.

It’s fun to speculate about the imminent iPhone 5–and there are no shortage of people doing so. But it’s probably best to hedge our bets, and lower our expectations. Apple’s COO has said Apple wouldn’t rush headlong into the new standard, until it could do so without making design concessions (currently, 4G LTE is a major drain on battery life, and Apple surely has no desire to make the next-gen iPhone suddenly bricklike to maintain current battery expectations).

For our part, we’re inclined to agree with ZDNet’s Rachel King, who thinks it might be premature for a 4G LTE iPhone. The next-gen iPhone might really be a “filler” model, she suggests, in the way the 3GS was, prior to the release of the iPhone 4. Only time will tell, but the point remains: If you’re eager for a 4G LTE iPhone, it’s certainly on the way–but you’d better not hold your breath.

Be there when AI pioneers take center stage at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.