TechCrunch contributor, Steve Cheney, has written a piece suggesting that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) won't put out an LTE iPhone until 2012. The rest of the tech world has jumped on this, having previously massaged the WSJ's perenial CDMA-iPhone-for-Verizon rumor into an LTE phone that was just bound to arrive in the first quarter of 2011.
The LTE revelation is old news for LR Mobile readers; however, I first wrote that Apple wouldn't deliver an LTE iPhone until 2012 in October 2009 and we've stuck to that line ever since. Just last week I wrote that Apple would lag behind other vendors in the LTE market.
It's not actually difficult to figure why Apple won't be at the forefront of the LTE race if you talk to chip vendors and semiconductor analysts like the The Linley Group . LTE chipsets are still very much in their infancy and a vendor like Apple will want to ensure a good supply of the new silicon before it commits to a new phone.
Then there's a design cycle between a vendor getting sample silicon and actually finishing a phone designed around a chipset. "The general rule of thumb is that it takes about a year and a half," analyst Linley Gwennap from The Linley Group told me in March 2009.
Taking all that into consideration it was always obvious that Apple wouldn't lead the LTE pack. In fact, the early leaders like Samsung Corp. have tended to build their own LTE modems in house rather than waiting for traditional chip vendors. We know that Samsung, High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) have all done work on home-grown LTE modems, so it is logical that these will be among the first vendors with gadgets supporting the new technology.
Now take a look at the Samsung LTE Craft and understand the other reason that Apple won't be rushing into LTE. Let's be frank, the Samsung Craft LTE phone for MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) is a first but it is also a little bit clunky. Part of the reason for that is because you're seeing the very earliest LTE silicon in operation.
Compare the Craft with the similar dual-mode Samsung Epic WiMax smartphone and you'll see what an impact a few years of revisions and silicon shrinkage has, even with a niche technology like WiMax. Apple will want to wait for LTE revisions so that it can bring out its usual sleek and slick product rather than claiming bragging rights by being first.
One interesting aside: The larger form factor of the iPad makes it more likely, to me at least, to be an early candidate for LTE, particularly as Apple doesn't have to support cellular voice service on the data tablet.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile