MG Siegler’s recent write up regarding the iOS 5 and iPhone 5 release timeframes mentioned the possibility of LTE in the next iPhone.
TechCrunch contributor Steve Cheney (who nailed the timing of the Verizon iPhone last year), believes that a fall iPhone 5 launch makes LTE much more likely. He currently puts the odds at zero to ten percent for LTE if the iPhone 5 launched this summer (again, not happening), 50 percent if it comes in the fall, and 100 percent if it comes in January.
Siegler then mentions that LTE chipsets will be more mature by this fall and that the iPhone will be competing against a slew of Android devices with LTE. But, just how much coverage will LTE actually have by this fall? Not much. This coverage map (via Ben Brooks) speaks a thousand words. Those yellow circles are areas that currently have operating LTE networks, the green stars are planned LTE upgrades for 2011.
LTE coverage is growing, but this year isn’t the right year. Even with coverage where it is, Apple won’t be willing to take the trade off in battery life. I just don’t see how Apple could maintain battery life with the iPhone on LTE, even with the “more mature” LTE chips. And, imagine what the increase in battery life could be if Apple stuck with incredibly mature 3G chipsets. Apple will be competing against Android handsets with LTE, but Android handsets can’t compete with the iPhone’s battery life on 3G. Verizon claims the LTE-sporting HTC ThunderBolt gets 6.3-hours of battery life, while the current iPhone 4 gets 7-hours. Computerworld recently tested the ThunderBolt’s battery life and found that it averages less than 5-hours per charge. Anandtech tested the Verizon iPhone and it lasted over 7-hours in all three of their tests.
But, I’d suspect a non-LTE iPhone 5 to get even more battery life than the current iPhone 4. Which means Apple’s handset could reach a realistic 8-hours of battery life compared to an exaggerated 6-hours on an Android handset with LTE.
I think Apple could have a pretty good case against LTE. It’s fast, really fast, but Apple would be wise to wait at least one more year before making the leap.