Will Verizon iPhone jump on the 4G bandwagon?

As the rumors of an impending Verizon iPhone gain credibility, people wonder about the capabilities of a Verizon iPhone

The rumors and reports surrounding the impending availability of the iPhone through Verizon are becoming more relentless -- perhaps hinting that the speculation may soon, in fact, become a reality. Assuming the Verizon iPhone reports are authentic, the question remains how Apple will make the transition from GSM to CDMA, and whether the Verizon iPhone will embrace Verizon's cutting edge 4G LTE network.

AppleInsider reports suggest that Apple will implement a dual-band chip from Qualcomm that will allow the iPhone to work on both GSM and CDMA networks simultaneously. This approach makes sense from the standpoint that Apple would not have to develop and manufacture separate iPhone hardware for each wireless network. It would also mean that a CDMA-compatible Verizon iPhone would still have international functionality as most of the world relies on GSM.

With the recent Verizon announcement that it will soon unleash its 4G LTE network in major markets around the country, some wonder if Apple should not even bother with a 3G CDMA iPhone, and simply get onboard with LTE. Assuming that Apple is finally ending its exclusivity with AT&T and offering the iPhone with Verizon, what's another few months?

In the end, I don't think that Apple needs to go out of its way to jump on the 4G bandwagon just yet. Aside from giving Sprint a unique marketing brand -- enabling them to tack "4G" onto the end of the name of every device -- it isn't really an advantage yet. The next generation Wi-Fi technology is not pervasive enough, and has not yet been proven enough for it to be a major consideration for prospective smartphone buyers.

Given the trials and tribulations that the iPhone has had with AT&T's 3G network, it can be argued that Apple should be anxious to embrace cutting edge technology that provides much greater bandwidth and speed. However, Apple is understandably reluctant to be a 4G guinea pig. Essentially, any problem that would arise would be a question mark that could potentially mar the reputation of the iPhone, and Apple is better off to wait for 4G to become entrenched as the standard.

The surveys that have been conducted regarding the likelihood that Verizon customers would buy an iPhone, or whether AT&T and Sprint customers might defect to Verizon just to get a Verizon iPhone, have focused just on the concept of the iPhone. I seriously doubt that the numbers would change much had the survey been worded specific to a 3G vs. 4G iPhone.

The bottom line is that the pent up demand is for the iPhone--pure and simple. Adding 4G capabilities would almost be frivolous, and foregoing CDMA to target LTE would be counter-productive. What is the point of finally ending exclusivity and offering the iPhone through Verizon, if you do so in a limited fashion that yet again restricts the potential audience?

With each passing day, it seems more certain that a Verizon iPhone is coming soon. But, if you were hoping for a 4G Verizon iPhone, I don't recommend holding your breath.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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