Why Apple won’t give the iPhone or iPad an LTE radio. Yet.

Right, I’m going to come right out and say this before I go any further: I’m going to get a lot of stick for this, and the rest of the iDB team thinks that I’ve lost my mind, but I’m going to write this anyway. I don’t think the iPad or iPhone is going to get an LTE radio. At least, not yet.

Now I know this flies in the face of what we are being told by just about everyone, including a very recent article by the Wall Street Journal. The general consensus is that Apple will indeed bring an iPad 3 to market during the coming weeks, and that said iPad 3 will be the first Apple device to come packed with an LTE radio for hooking up to super-fast 4G networks.

I, however, think you’re all wrong. Here’s why…

LTE isn’t ready

This LTE technology that everyone is apparently crying out for – is it actually widespread? Let’s just use Verizon as an example, seeing as it’s the one that pushes 4G the most. Just look at one of its bazillion Android handsets and you’ll see what I mean.

Hitting Verizon’s 4G coverage web page suggests that the chances are you won’t be reading this and be in a 4G coverage area. In fact, there are still plenty of areas that don’t have 3G coverage yet for that matter.

The situation is even worse if you’re an AT&T subscriber. Everyone seems to want a 4G device that may not even have a 4G network to work with. And that’s in the United States…

Outside the country, LTE is barely getting going. The UK for example is currently running extremely limited testing in the capital, with the technology not expected to be rolled out at all for another two years. Then there’s the lack of coverage to consider.

It’s much the same story across the globe, yet LTE is being clamored for by many Apple watchers.

Lest we forget that this is the same Apple which wouldn’t put 3G into the original iPhone because it wasn’t yet deemed to be ready. Sound familiar?

Multiple devices for different countries don’t jive

One potential way of getting around the issue of having an iPhone or iPad feature that is useless outside the United States is to manufacturer different devices for different territories. Apple could, for example, sell a 4G iPad in the US while shipping a 3G-only version worldwide. I’m not convinced, though.

New CEO Tim Cook is very much a logistics guy, and having to make different machines for different territories just isn’t his style. With the man supposedly keen on ‘just in time’ manufacturing and the like, I can’t see him going for something that can only make manufacturing more difficult than it already is. With Apple struggling to keep up with demand on recent product launches, can it really afford to have manufacturing capacity reduced even further by having to put together multiple versions of the same device?

Battery life

It’s a well known issue for all Android handsets that sport LTE, and it has led Apple to comment on the situation in the past, but battery life is still the biggest drawback of LTE 4G. With Android phones known for their inability to get through a day with a 4G radio in use, Apple would need to have worked some Cupertino magic if it is to throw caution to the wind and bring LTE to iOS devices this year. We all know how poor the battery can be in the iPhone 4S right now – imagine how bad it would be with LTE built in!

I’m sure I’m going to receive much vitriol thanks to my point of view, and some may argue that it is coming from someone who lives in the UK and wouldn’t see a benefit from LTE in an iPad or iPhone anyway. And to some extent, that’s true. Moreover, I’m not going to sit here and say Apple will never use LTE tech – they no doubt will – I’m simply saying I don’t think 2012 will be the year we see it. Not unless something changes rather soon at any rate.

Of course, I’ve been wrong before!