No 4G for Apple's iPhone 4

If you're wondering why Apple's latest phone is known as the "iPhone 4" instead of the more widely-used "iPhone 4G," it could be because the new device still relies on 3G connectivity.

If you're wondering why Apple's latest phone is known as the "iPhone 4" instead of the more widely-used "iPhone 4G," it could be because the new device still relies on 3G connectivity.

The iPhone 4, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Monday     at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), is a GSM-based device that will have a quad-band HSPDA radio that runs on AT&T's 3G HSPA+ network and that can attain maximum theoretical download speeds of 7.2Mbps. Realistically, of course, the new iPhone will have typical download speeds of around 1 or 2Mbps, depending on how strong AT&T's 3G network happens to be in a given area.

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The fact that the iPhone 4 relies on 3G coverage for data delivery isn't at all surprising, since AT&T has yet to commercially launch its 4G LTE network yet and has no plans to do so until at least next year. While there are no LTE networks currently live in the United States, Verizon has reported that its LTE network is delivering average downlink speeds in excess of 5Mbps, a significant improvement over the performance of today's 3G networks.

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LTE, or Long Term Evolution, represents the next-generation standard in the GSM mobile data technology family. The next few months will mark the start of the LTE era in the United States, as Verizon plans to have its LTE network up and running in up to 30 major markets with many more to come in 2011. AT&T also plans to start deploying its LTE network commercially in 2011, meaning that the newest edition of the iPhone will likely be 4G-capable by the time it hits the market next June.

When LTE does launch next year, it could give Apple the opportunity to offer an LTE-capable iPhone on both Verizon and AT&T, especially since AT&T's exclusivity agreement with Apple is rumored to expire in 2012. Despite the fact that Apple and AT&T's relationship on the iPhone has been hugely profitable for both companies, Apple is likely enticed by the prospect of offering its device to Verizon's 93 million wireless subscribers.

The iPhone 4 will officially launch on June 24 exclusively on AT&T.

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Tags smartphonesApplemobile phonesiPhoneWWDC 2010iphone 4

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Brad Reed

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