Verizon Wireless and Apple finally launched their iPhone for the Verizon network today, but a lot of folks were disappointed to hear it was a code division multiple access (CDMA) phone and not a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) phone, which has faster data speeds.
Apple and Verizon officials said that an LTE version would have required “design compromises” that Apple didn’t want to make. Instead, they chose to create an iPhone that was pretty much the same as the AT&T iPhone 4 version, except for the CDMA network and its ability to support mobile hot spots.
The LTE advantage is that it could support download rates in the multiple megabits a second, far faster than current data networking on smartphones and faster than many broadband lines for homes. Verizon Wireless launched its 4G LTE network in December in 38 markets with download speeds of 5 megabits per second to 12 megabits per second. AT&T says it will launch its 4G LTE network in the second half of 2011. Verizon plans to be in 100 markets with 4G LTE by year-end.
But the LTE iPhone version would likely have required more silicon and therefore more space inside the phone. That would have made it bigger, said Tina Teng, analyst at market researcher iSuppli. On top of that, Apple would have had to pay more for the chips inside the phone, driving up its cost. That would have meant that the Verizon version would have been more expensive than the AT&T version, even though the functions are pretty much the same. Consumers wouldn’t have been happy about that.
In fact, one big drawback of the Verizon iPhone is that you can’t get simultaneous voice and data multitasking. The introduction follows a familiar pattern as well. When Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, it used the older but more stable EDGE network for data networking.
Some companies such as Samsung and LG have LTE phones. But those phones use complex chip solutions, like one chip to handle the LTE baseband tasks and another chip to make the phone backward compatible with older networks. That’s more expensive. Another solution is to integrate LTE into a larger radio chip with all of the networks integrated. But that’s more expensive and solutions won’t be available for some time.
The bottom line is that it may be 2012 before the costs come down and the integration can be done more cheaply, Teng said.