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Apple Testing LTE in iOS 5 and Hiring More LTE Engineers

Early last week, Boy Genius Report claimed that Apple has been testing a 4G LTE-enabled iPhone with carriers, and pointed to an "internal iOS test build" of one of Apple's major mobile partners. In that build was a property list file (.plist) for LTE. BGR believed that this meant that Apple was already testing LTE hardware in the field.

LTE is the term the next generation wireless broadband network that is currently being deployed by both Verizon and AT&T. Data speeds for LTE should be significantly faster than the iPhone's existing 3G network.

We've since discovered the same LTE plist file in at least the last couple of developer builds of iOS 5. This LTE.plist file was found only in some of the builds (GSM iPhone 4, CDMA iPad 2, but not their counterparts) and it was related to Apple's internal "Fieldtest" application. It raises the question whether or not the "internal iOS test build" was anything special or if it just mirrored the general developer release.


Despite this not being the only LTE-related Apple news we heard last week, it's still unlikely that Apple will make the jump to LTE so early with the iPhone 5.

Engadget also posted a photo from a source who claimed that AT&T had installed 4G LTE equipment in a major Apple retail store. AT&T provides Apple with equipment to enhance phone coverage in their stores, so the suggestion is that AT&T is boosting LTE signals in anticipation of some Apple-related hardware.

And late last week, Forbes pointed out that Apple had put out a job listing for field test engineers with expertise in LTE.
Field testing in the wireless industry typically means going outside (“into the field”) with a new cellphone and measuring its signal strength. It is an integral step that phone makers must take before releasing products to the public.
While Apple often lists LTE amongst other testing protocols in any iPhone-relate job application, this job title was written to emphasize LTE technology specifically.

The reason LTE is unlikely to arrive, however, in the 2012 iPhone is based on comments by Apple's Tim Cook about the state of LTE chipsets earlier this year. Cook said that the first generation of LTE chipsets forced a lot of design compromises, and Apple was unwilling to make those compromises. Those compromises likely referred to the high power requirements of current generation LTE chipsets that can result in very short battery life for mobile phones.

The LTE chipset that is believed to be the one that Apple plans on using for the iPhone is the upcoming Qualcomm MDM9615. That chipset was announced in February and is said to start "sampling" in late 2011. A leak of Qualcomm's 2011-2012 roadmap in July pinpointed the release of the MDM9615 to Q2 2012, putting it in line for the iPhone 6.

So yes, Apple is likely field testing early LTE devices (under iOS 5 even), but they probably won't come out until 2012.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

42 months ago
They said so themselves that they're "sampling" the Qualcomm chips in late 2011.

Stop thinking LTE iPhone 5. It's not happening. If it does, :apple:'s will fly.
Rating: 12 Votes
42 months ago

It's not even the power requirements so much, outside the US (yes, still part of the world) there is next to no network infrastructure to support such a device.


Seriously? LTE deployment started much earlier in parts of europe than in the US. There are already commercial LTE tests being run in Northern Europe and other parts of europe well before deployment started in the US.
Rating: 7 Votes
42 months ago

It's not even the power requirements so much, outside the US (yes, still part of the world) there is next to no network infrastructure to support such a device.


Don't know about your German knowledge, but...

LTE is live in Cologne, Germany. Not rural, not projected or set to release somewhere 2012...LIVE. According to a news from heise-online the area with LTE coverage in Cologne was 150 square km in July.

Telekom also states, that 100 cities are set to receive LTE-coverage in the near future.

Here you can have look on an interactive LTE-coverage map by Telekom (https://www.lte-city.de/lte-map)

Low and behold - the future is here (and I won't buy anything but a LTE-device in the future)

Edit: Just drag around the map of Germany and then start to repeat the mantra: Yes, LTE is live in Europe. Yes, LTE is live in Europe. Yes, LTE is live in Europe.
Rating: 7 Votes
42 months ago

It's not even the power requirements so much, outside the US (yes, still part of the world) there is next to no network infrastructure to support such a device.


Outside the us? A lot of countries are much further ahead in the establishment of LTE than the US.

Isn't it obvious that this is what they're working on for iPhone 6? We already know that Apple is always working on the next 2 generations of the iPhone
Rating: 5 Votes
42 months ago

It's not even the power requirements so much, outside the US (yes, still part of the world) there is next to no network infrastructure to support such a device.


You got that backwards pal, the first 4G networks were running in northern Europe long before any American 4G rollout. Besides a 4G iPhone would fall back to 3G networks where 4G isn't available.
Rating: 5 Votes
42 months ago
LTE is avab in my area, even on top of the mountain ^^

Rating: 4 Votes
42 months ago

iPhone 5 is coming!!!:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D
(i do think that it may have LTE because of the equipement they installed in the apple stores)


This is a good point. If Apple were only testing LTE, they wouldn't deploy the LTE equipment to their stores so far in advance of the release of a product that would use it. Apple would deploy it on their own campus to test it, not in their stores worldwide.
Rating: 4 Votes
42 months ago
If anything, the iPhone 5 needs to have HSPA+.... it will be a serious blow to the iPhone 5 if it stays with 3G.
Since it's advertised as 4G anyway, i wouldnt see the problem.... HSPA+ is fast.
Rating: 4 Votes
42 months ago
I've had all the iPhone versions, including VW iPhone. I've had my 4G HTC Thunderbolt for 3 months and have not missed iPhone 1 bit. Having wifi like speeds wherever you go is amazing!
Rating: 4 Votes
42 months ago

It's not even the power requirements so much, outside the US (yes, still part of the world) there is next to no network infrastructure to support such a device.

Fact: the first commercial LTE deployments were in Scandivania. They have been running for a while.

Fact: there are a few other Northern Europe countries with partial LTE deployment. There are also a number of other countries who are rolling out LTE, but with no current commercial availability.

Fact: Germany's current LTE deployment is mostly in rural areas (there are a few urban networks) and the current intention is for people to use LTE modems on computers (which don't have the same sensitivity to battery life as mobile handsets).

Fact: there are many other non-European large iPhone markets with no LTE.

Assumption: there isn't a critical mass of commercially available LTE networks in large markets for Apple to release an LTE device at this time.

Assumption: Following Tim Cook's comments earlier this year, the poor performance of currently available LTE chips hasn't changed and won't until early 2012.

Assumption: a more plausible performance bump at this point would be the inclusion of HSPA+.
Rating: 4 Votes

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