No 4G iPhone 5
All the debate over whether the iPhone 5 will or should offer support for 4G networking misses the overriding point: 4G is a fraud. It doesn’t exist. Not really. Whether it’s Verizon with its barely-there 4G network, or AT&T whose 4G network exists only on paper, or T-Mobile and Sprint pushing pseudo-”4G” networks which are so much slower than what 4G is supposed to be that competing networks have adopted the “4G LTE” moniker as a way of distinguishing themselves from it, there is as of yet no legitimate 4G experience to be had. It’s why Apple didn’t add 4G to the iPhone 4 last year, and doesn’t want to add it to the iPhone 5 this year either. Yet the march to 4G is well on its way, at least in the marketing departments of the carriers, which leaves Apple in the awkward position of not wanting to add mostly-useless 4G hardware to the iPhone 5 due to the various ways in which it could be a net-negative for the overall experience. But Apple may have to give into 4G hype anyway, effectively offering a worse (for now) product in the name of staying in the game.
The challenge of delivering a 4G iPhone 5 starts with the issue of which “4G” variant Apple would start with. AT&T and Verizon are both betting on 4G LTE, and it’s the best (fastest) flavor to date. But Verizon’s 4G LTE network is mostly not yet built, and AT&T’s network 4G LTE network doesn’t exist. The latter is complicated by the fact that AT&T is in the process of acquiring T-Mobile and its nationwide pseudo-4G network, meaning that Apple could be looking at needing to support multiple kinds of 4G within the iPhone 5. And that’s before Sprint and its brand of pseudo-4G come into the equation, with Sprint being the only carrier Apple doesn’t have to worry about. But even in attempting to play along with the Verizon and the AT&T-T-Mobile 4G experiences, Apple could end up with an inferior iPhone 5 product in the process.
Support for multiple types of wireless technology means more drain on battery life. The iPhone 5 is already looking at supporting AT&T’s 3G GSM, Verizon’s CDMA, and presumably, AT&T’s aging EDGE since AT&T never did finish building its 3G network. On top of that, add support for 4G LTE plus maybe T-Mobile’s brand of 4G, and along with wifi that’s half a dozen different types of potential receivership going on. And unless Apple has figured out how to build a single antenna which can interact with all the various cellular networks, 4G support could mean more networking hardware packed into the iPhone 5. That either means it has to be thicker than Apple wanted, or other features (capacity? battery?) have to be reduced in order to make room. Suddenly, in the worst case scenario, you’re looking at an iPhone 5 which, for the sake of supporting 4G for the relative handful who would actually be able to use it, would be a worse-off product for everyone else. But with the entire cellular marketplace from carriers to hardware vendors all pretending that 4G is for real at a time when it’s still a little-understood pipedream, Apple will have a hard time remaining the only honest player with regard to 4G amidst an industry-wide fraudulent representation of what 4G is and isn’t. In other words, a 4G-enabled iPhone 5 could bring with it more bad news than good, even though it would likely outsell a non-4G iPhone 5 by quite a large margin.