One of the most popular debates regarding the iPhone 5 is whether or not it will be 4G compatible. The next generation of 4G network standards are catching on quickly here in the states, as the new technology is substantially faster than its 3G predecessor.

While several Android devices with the new technology have already been introduced, it’s widely believed that Apple’s next handset won’t have 4G capability. Multiple obstacles have folks believing that we won’t see a 4G product from Apple until next year. Is it still possible that Apple will unveil a 4G iPhone this Fall?

Recent reports have provided evidence that Apple is farther along in its 4G research than we all thought. In fact, we’ve seen proof that Apple is not only field testing 4G equipment, but it’s also installing it in its retail stores as well.

MacRumors posted more information this weekend regarding Apple’s work on LTE. The acronym stands for Long Term Evolution, and seems to be the most common 4G platform among wireless carriers. Unlike previous LTE findings, this was found in a standard developer build of iOS 5 — the same builds we’ve been using for the last month or so — so there’s already code for the technology in the new firmware. The next iPhone could be 4G then, right?

One of the main reasons people seem to be dismissing an LTE iPhone this year can be traced back to a comment made by Apple COO Tim Cook early this year during a Q&A session after a quarterly earnings call:

“The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make.”

As MacRumors points out, the chipset that Apple is likely to go with is the Qualcomm MDM9615. It’s much smaller than current LTE components, and it’s expected to start being sampled by the end of the year.

With no available chipset to fit the bill, and sparse 4G coverage around the world, why on earth would Apple want to spend extra time and money developing a 4G-capable handset right now? Perhaps the answer is this simple: because it can.

Forget for a minute that Apple didn’t jump on the 3G bandwagon right away. When Apple announced the original iPhone back in 2007, it pioneered the modern smartphone. The multitouch display that was introduced had never been seen before.

Not only did it work really well, but Apple also had exclusivity on the touch panels for nearly a year before competitors got ahold of them. Why couldn’t that be the case with the new LTE chipsets?

It’s entirely feasible that Apple could have invested enough in the R&D team over at Qualcomm to speed along production on the LTE chipsets in exchange for temporary exclusivity. Apple does this kind of thing all the time.

If Steve Jobs and company are so intent on “skating to where the puck is going to be,” why would they want to wait until late 2012 to unveil a 4G-capable device?

If that’s the case, and Apple is already testing next gen LTE devices, then you have to assume that the iPhone 5 is just going to be a placeholder. But will a placeholder sell the 100 million units that are projected to sell?

Android handset makers and wireless carriers have turned 4G into a household name, and consumers are interested.

You might be asking why Apple would make a 4G iPhone now, instead of next year when the technology is more stable. But I’m wondering why the hell not.

  • MrA

    What about this?
    Maybe the iPad 3 will be 4G and then the iPhone 6 would also get it later down the road. When the iPad first gen was originally released the iPhone 4 was released shortly after and had better specs (double ram, retina display, etc…). I think Apple wants to do the release of these products in a certain order so that the iPhone is gaining attributes from the iPad and not vice-versa. I mean hey, dosen’t it make sense that a tablet would be more powerful than a phone?

    • dylan

      yeah, but i really don’t see why they would put in LTE equipment in apple stores this year if a 4g device would be announced next year

  • petis

    Ipad is a very nice candidate fro LTE, iphone is not. If they put it inside ip5 it would be a waste of money from apple, there is no demand for LTE at the moment.

    • Jon Garrett

      no demand for LTE? yeah OK.

  • Prodigy844

    Honestly I doubt they will becoming out with it this year. 4g might be a house hold name but it’s only actually in a few major markets and that’s just the us, and besides apple has never been a company to just follow the pack

    • iPwn

      Actually Verizons LTE already covers 50% of the US Population with more towers and markets going live weekly.

      • MrA

        Yah true, but I doubt Apple would allow one provider to have a 4G iPhone and not the other and AT&T 4G coverage is dismal at best.

  • Dane

    iPhone 5 better have 4g. There are already 3 iPhones all a year+ apart using the same tech. Apple was late to get 3G to start so it is seriously time for an upgrade since other phones have had 4g in them for months.

    Wifi is a million times better anyway but when I do have to use 3G I can’t stand how slow it is. It’s like trying to use DSL after having cable

  • I think it will have 4G. Think the LTE equipment AT&T installed to the Apple Stores

  • petis

    Other phones that have “4g” do not have the real 4g, they have just HSPA+ which is a bit faster 3G. This will ip5 have also (I guess) but not LTE.

    • iPwn

      Verizon Androids have 4G LTE

    • Mark

      Actually, even LTE and WiMAX aren’t real 4g, as they don’t pass the requirements. However, they are planning on releasing the real 4g, LTE Advanced and WiMAX 2 in 2013.

  • DomPerignon

    lol… all this article and most of the replies are a typical example of mental masturbation…lol

    • MrA

      I don’t get it? Seems to me more a topic of speculation followed by discussion.

      Perhaps that’s what you were saying..

  • Al

    I very much doubt we will see a 4G iPhone this time as the LTE technology isn’t used much yet. Here in the UK the bids for the 4G licences aren’t until next year. Why spend on something that isn’t going to be worldwide for at least another year at least.

  • Mark

    Probably, Appe wasn’t planning to, but when all of these 4g Android phones came out, they haveno other choice.

  • Goofygreek

    I’m thinking it’s not gonna be 4g but will be a hspa+ phone most likely.

  • If Apple releases an LTE iPhone, sprint users are far from getting the iPhone in their network.

  • Rich

    Well, if the iPhone 5 isn’t 4g, Why even bother getting it, if you have an iPhone 4 already. Dropping money just for a slightly larger screen, and slight speed improvements. iPhone 4 is still one of the best phones out, i’d rather wait till the 6, if they don’t implement 4g into the iPhone 5.

  • TheMan

    The Qualcomm MDM9615 is actually out in more than just samples right now. The foundry could produce enough to meet early demand by mid-October for iOS 5 devices. Question is whether the IPhone 5 or IPad 3 is driving the development curve given the design compromises necessary to accommodate the new chip. Tim Cook’s comment about the lack of available LTE chipsets that don’t involve significant design compromises may be setting up the introduction of the Qualcomm MDM9615 chip whose initial production Apple already locked up in February.

  • TheMan

    Qualcomm use of noise canceling technology in the MDM9615 chipset makes a good choice for all the current 3G variants. For Apple, it’s not LTE that is spurring on the choice, it’t 3G. It wouldn’t be surprising if iOS devices shipped with the MDM9615 chip without LTE initially activated only to push and update later.