FYI: Apple iPhone launch underwhelming, but rounds off global LTE support nicely
As the furore settles down over yesterday’s Apple iPhone update we can take a quick look at the news and specifically what it means from an LTE perspective.
Two new phones were launched and while are clearly very solid offerings, no wheels were reinvented, and as such, it was a little underwhelming, at least from an iPhone 5 owner’s perspective.
The iPhone 5C is essentially an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell, available in more colours and the 5S is essentially a faster version of the iPhone 5, thanks to a new 64-bit chip capable of taking advantage of the 64-bit iOS7.
The ‘budget’ iPhone angle that analysts were predicting also failed to come true. The 5c is still a £469 phone SIM free – which hardly makes it likely to appeal to developing markets.
The good news though is that both phones though are capable of taking advantage of more LTE bands that any other smartphone in the world right now. There are five models of each to choose from depending on region.
This is essentially as Apple has to make a choice as to which LTE frequencies to support, as with 40 LTE bands currently employed round the world supporting them all at once would mean a battery life of around five minutes.
Amazingly, despite the extra bands now available Apple has said that the battery life for LTE browsing is 10 hours – up two hours from the iPhone 5. A grand achievement that in no doubt due to the improved power efficiency of the LTE modem chip, likely (but not confirmed) to be a Qualcomm MDM9625, and the larger battery, thanks to the internal jiggery pokery redesign inside.
This means it will also support slightly faster theoretical LTE speeds of 150Mbps down and 50Mbps up, though only a few operators around the world are deploying the bandwidth to deliver this faster LTE experience. Apple certainly hasn’t made anything of the faster possible speeds, and to my mind made too little of the battery life.
One thing that neither new iPhone supports is LTE Advanced – one would image that this will be likely coming with next year’s iPhone 6.
Looking at the specs it’s clear the new iPhone’s round things out nicely for the UK- with both phones working on all operators, with Band 20 800MHz digital dividend supporting Vodafone and O2 along with the Band 3 1800Mhz support carried over from iPhone 5.
There was some confusion due to Apple not listing O2 on this page, by that seems to have been cleared up by O2. Both phones will work fine.
Interestingly, it seems that US models also support this frequencies, raising the possibility that if you buy an unlocked phone in the US, you’ll be able to put in a European SIM and use it for LTE. As the European models won’t support the US frequencies that won’t be possible the other way round, and roaming on LTE using the US LTE networks is of course a different kettle of fish.
The remaining issue is China. Apple was happy to boast of the fact that it was launching in China for the first time, but it did not include the countries on its LTE support page. However, Model A1530, does list support for TD-LTE Bands 38, 39, 40, which will be used by China Mobile. A tie up between Apple and the largest mobile operator in the world for LTE would be huge news, and Apple’s omission from mentioning this implies a deal is still being worked on.
When it happens, Apple won’t be able to hear the complaints of how it hasn’t moved the game on enough, for the noise of all the cash rushing in from the east – budget iPhone or no budget iPhone.