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While it’s not quite the LTE 4G iPhone many were hoping for, the iPhone 5 will apparently support HSPA+ technology, which many carriers bill as 4G.
Speaking at Macworld Asia this week, a China Unicom executive showed off the above slide, which lists the iPhone 5 as supporting HSPA+ technology up to 21Mbps. In comparison, the iPhone 4 supports the slower HSPA standard with maximum speeds up to 7.2Mbps. The news could mean faster speeds for AT&T users, but Verizon and Sprint users, whose networks don’t support HSPA+, will be left out.
The news was first reported by Japanese IT news site PC Watch and was then picked up by Japanese blog Macotakara, which is where it spread to US tech blogs.
While the slide isn’t firm proof that this is where Apple is headed with its upcoming iPhone, past rumors have pointed to Apple including HSPA+ technology in the iPhone 5. It wouldn’t be too difficult to do since, unlike LTE chipsets, HSPA+ chips are easy to integrate into thin smartphone designs.
Apple is holding an event on Tuesday, October 4, where it will officially announce the iPhone 5.
If those rumors are true, the iPhone 5 would be able to take advantage of AT&T’s faster HSPA+ network, which AT&T has been marketing as 4G with smartphones like the Motorola Atrix and the HTC Inspire 4G. HSPA+ is a stop-gap technology for AT&T as it rolls out its LTE 4G network. T-Mobile, on the other hand, has banked its entire 4G strategy on HSPA+ with speeds up to 42Mbs.
But if the iPhone 5 does include the faster technology, users on CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint will miss out, since HSPA+ is based on 3G GSM technology, which is only supported by AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. If this happens, many Verizon iPhone users who were glad to abandon AT&T may end up cursing their purchase.