updated 03:45 am EDT, Sun August 21, 2011
Apple LTE shows up elsewhere but offers few clues
Allusions to Apple starting to add LTE to its formula were validated Saturday but also downplayed as being clues of any imminent release. An LTE.plist file once thought new has been seen in some of the code releases for the past two developer betas of iOS 5. It hinted to MacRumors that Apple had begun general LTE research work some weeks ago and that it might not have been special in itself.
The iPhone maker has been recruiting with LTE awareness in mind for months and may well be preparing for the 4G service in the long term. Early field trials just starting now, however, all but rule out LTE before 2012, since Apple will need considerably longer to test and implement the faster cellular technology than 2012.
Current LTE chipsets, barring early access, wouldn't make sense for an iPhone and probably an iPad as well. Existing devices need a separate 4G chipset independent of any 3G hardware and often consume large amounts of power and space. Qualcomm's 2012 roadmap sees it merging LTE 4G with 3G in hardware like the MDM9615 and could make an LTE iPhone practical without having to bulk up the thickness or battery capacity.
The 2011 iPhone refresh should still be an advancement in speed but will more probably use HSPA+ 3G at 14.4Mbps or 21Mbps. Making the switch will give it an appreciable boost in speed that AT&T will interpret as 4G without having to redesign the hardware or add expenses to the line.