Although Apple touted its new smartphone yesterday as “capable” of 4G-like speeds, the iPhone 4S isn’t getting the “4G” label. The handset still essentially uses 3G technology, debunking the last-minute rumors that the device would be LTE-capable.

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, and it’s a common choice for carriers looking to go 4G. The technology has been really popular in Android devices over the last several months, so why didn’t we see it in the new iPhone?

Just as Apple did with 3G the first time around, it passed up 4G tech this year for multiple reasons. For starters, LTE isn’t very common outside of the United States. And even in the US it barely covers half of the country.

On top of its lack of coverage, the hardware technology isn’t where Apple needs it to be. The company needs the 4G chip to be low-power and extremely small. And as AnandTech points out, such a chip may not be available until late next year.

As you can see from the above graphic, the MDM9615 looks like the modem Apple needs. It can handle both LTE data and voice, which would alleviate the need for separate components. And in a thin device, the less parts, the better.

Due to manufacturing problems, the MDM9615 won’t be available until Q2 of next year. This means we aren’t likely to see an LTE handset from Apple until late next year, and by that time, the technology will be much more widespread.