LTE Unlikely to Arrive in iPhone Until at Least Q3 2012
In what should have come as no surprise to most observers, Apple yesterday introduced its new iPhone 4S without LTE 4G capabilities. The company had previously acknowledged that the first generation of LTE chips had required handset design compromises that Apple was unwilling to make, and analysts had noted that Apple-suitable LTE chips weren't likely until early 2012.
AnandTech takes a closer look at the status of LTE chip development, describing how a slower-than-expected transition to new 28-nanometer chip processes has left a number of companies unable to release the devices they had originally hoped to launch in 2011.
As you may have heard however, the move to 28nm at both TSMC and Global Foundries isn't really going all that smoothly. The jump from 4x-nm to 28nm is a very big one, so it's not unexpected to have pretty serious teething problems as the process ramps up. I suspect that an aggressive 28nm roadmap that didn't pan out probably caught a lot of SoC and smartphone vendors in a position where they couldn't ship what they wanted to in 2011.
As in earlier reports regarding Apple's likely LTE chip plans, AnandTech points to Qualcomm's MDM9615 modem as the chip to watch for. The MDM9615 will be the first chip to offer both LTE and voice services in a single chip.
But with the MDM9615 not scheduled to begin shipping in quantity until the second quarter of next year, AnandTech suggests that an LTE-enabled iPhone wouldn't appear until the third quarter of 2012.
Qualcomm's current roadmaps show the 28nm MDM9615 arriving in Q2 2012. The 9615 finds itself in a smaller 10x10mm package and is voice enabled as well. Apple (and all other smartphone makers) could replace the MDM6600 with the MDM9615 and have a "single chip" LTE solution for smartphones.
Apple's next-generation A6 system-on-a-chip is also said to be on track for a second quarter debut, and while such a schedule raises questions about Apple's plans for the iPad 3, it would line up nicely to allow Apple to launch a new iPhone based on the A6 and LTE about a year from now.