5 iPhone 5 Features Carriers Should Care About
The teardown specialists at Light Reading sister company UBM TechInsights have a good track record of predicting what will be inside mobile devices. Their expertise, coupled with a steady stream of rumors, reports and "sources familiar with the matter" give us a good idea of what to expect from the event. (See iPad Mini: Wi-Fi Only & Camera-Free?)
Here's a few of the features we anticipate will be in the iPhone 5 and, more importantly, why the U.S. wireless operators should be prepared for them.
1) LTE support
Many were disappointed when the iPhone 4S lacked 4G network connectivity last year, but the next iPhone is unlikely to fail on this front. For the wireless operators, the inclusion of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) is table stakes. To date, they have had a hard time convincing consumers they need the faster network connectivity, especially when the previous iPhone didn't support it. The iPhone 5 could be the best publicity for their new networks yet. (See Here Comes the 4G iPhone .)
This will be especially important for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), which trail significantly behind Verizon Wireless in both coverage and handset line-up. (See 4G: Marketing the iPhone & Other Matters.)
TechInsights Technical Research Manager and teardown specialist Allan Yogasingam believes the iPhone 5 will include an LTE chip, as well as support for all the major 3G bands in the U.S. He predicts Apple will launch an iPhone for all four wireless operators in the U.S., including T-Mobile US Inc. , which has so far been left out of the iPhone game and which won't have an LTE network to speak of until 2013. (See Verizon CFO Is a Tease on iPhone Timing, Sprint, the LTE iPhone & 4G Plans and Qualcomm Not Holding Up LTE iPhone.)
"It will be a multi-carrier cell phone to maximize the profit," Yogasingam says. "I would be shocked if [Apple doesn't support] all four."
Don't expect that to mean the iPhone will hop between the different providers' networks, however. Local roaming is a business issue, not a technology one, so even if the phone supports it, the wireless operators here likely won't. Global roaming, on the other hand, will most likely be enabled, as it was on the iPhone 4S. (See Will the iPhone 5 Be a North American Roamer? and Qualcomm: Multi-Band Chips Will Take LTE Global .)
A lot of vendors are starting to bake Near-Field Communications (NFC) into their handsets, and Apple will most likely be another one. The contactless technology hasn't yet caught on in the U.S., but having more handsets equipped with NFC will help accelerate the market for it. (See Apple Could Make Mobile Payments AuthenTec.)
Should Apple include NFC capability in its iPhone 5, this would likely raise awareness of mobile payments and of NFC in general, but the wireless operators may not look favorably upon it. That's because, with the exception of Sprint, the Tier 1 providers are pushing their own Isis initiative. It's been slow getting started, but the group is planning a debut this month. (See Mobile Money: What's the End Game? , Mobile Commerce Sidesteps the Carriers and Isis Signs Up 50+ Merchants.)
Continued on Page 2