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New iPhones Use Old Qualcomm LTE Chips

Sarah Thomas
9/23/2013
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Apple's new iPhone models may support more LTE bands than any other smartphone on the market, but they are not leveraging a new chip to do so. (See Apple's New iPhones Pack in LTE Bands.)

Rather, the iPhone 5s and 5c are using the same Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) chip as their predecessor, the iPhone 5 -- at least in Australia.

Phone deconstructing specialists iFixit have completed an initial teardown of the Australian 5s/5c and discovered the Qualcomm MDM9615M modem on board, but with the addition of Avago Technologies Pte. power amplifiers and the WRT 1605L receiver to tack on additional LTE bands on a single chip.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) boasted that its new iPhones support 17 LTE bands, which suggested it was using Qualcomm's latest and greatest RF360, which supports up to 40 LTE bands. The chipmaker has yet to announce a customer for the new chips, and it now appears Apple won't be its first. While it is possible the handset maker customized its RF chips in different geographies since it's not using the global RF360, it's likely the other SKUs match the Australian version. (See Qualcomm Unveils Single Global LTE Chip.)

As a result of sticking with the older Qualcomm chipset, the new phones will not support LTE-Advanced in the markets where the 150Mbit/s network is available. This is a bragging right that some of its Android competitors using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800, like the Samsung Corp. Galaxy S 4 and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) G2, can claim. (See LG's G2 Is Ready for LTE-Advanced.)

But the phone's innards aren't holding back many new buyers. Even with a lukewarm reception from the investor community, Apple managed to sell 9 million devices combined in its first weekend on the market. As per usual, it wasn't able to keep up with the demand, running out of iPhone 5s inventory in a lot of markets. Apple also said that more than 200 million people have already updated their devices to iOS 7, making it the fastest upgrade in its history. (See Poll: Readers Underwhelmed by New iPhones.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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tektonikshift
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tektonikshift,
User Rank: Light Beer
9/23/2013 | 7:15:10 PM
Performance drives radio components selection
What drives radio component selection?

- Proven excellent performance, 

- Proven ability to scale,  

As such, bleeding edge technologies are adopted ~ 6 to 12 months after introduced. 

LTE places new performance and feature requirements on carriers and handset makers.  

QUALCOMM's RF360 is appealing on many levels, but if one element in its many capabilities is sub par, it will have to wait for next design cycle. 
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/23/2013 | 3:36:36 PM
Re: Late to market
Either way eventually Apple will go in the direction of a single universal component to reduce the number of SKU's they need to produce, and with Apple's scale the cost differential issue will be resolved.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
9/23/2013 | 2:43:53 PM
Re: Late to market
I'm not sure it would've though -- it's not much bigger of a chip, i don't think. Might have been a more expensive LTE roaming solution though. It's not something consumers care much about, or are even aware of, anyway. 
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/23/2013 | 2:16:18 PM
Re: Late to market
Probably because it would have forced a partial re-design of the device's innards, and the fact that there is no need for it currently. They did the same thing with the adoption of 3G and later 4G, when they waited until there was a real penetration and only then added it to their products.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
9/23/2013 | 2:08:37 PM
Re: Late to market
True, and LTE-Advanced won't be exciting for another year or two anyway. But, I am a bit surprised they didn't go with the RF360. I wonder why; not commercially ready yet?
MordyK
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MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/23/2013 | 2:06:11 PM
Late to market
Apple has a long history of being late to market with new technologies but after the delay help them into the mainstream. This will likely be the case
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