Apple's new iPhones: Their top 5 wireless omissions


Tammy Parker, FierceBroadbandWireless

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiling of its iPhone 5s and 5c was impressive on numerous fronts, including the breadth of LTE bands the operator is supporting. But support for a few notable LTE bands and capabilities was missing from the devices' introduction, so here is my list of the top 5 wireless-related omissions.

  1. With support for 14 FDD LTE bands as well as three TD-LTE bands, Apple is probably right to claim that the high-end iPhone 5s and less expensive iPhone 5c support more LTE bands than any other smartphone in the world. But where is LTE band 41 support? Short answer: Not in the iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c, at least not yet. Sprint (NYSE:S) and China Mobile's 2.5 GHz TD-LTE band was completely left out of Apple's new iPhones. AppleInsider reported last week that KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts China Mobile will introduce Apple's iPhone to its 740 million subscribers by the end of the year but first needs to finish rolling out its TDD-LTE network. True or not, it's unlikely that even the 16 GB iPhone 5c will generate mass market traction in China, where China Unicom and China Telecom will carry it. The phone's unsubsidized pricing in China starts at $733 for the 16 GB model, which the New York Times noted is 33 percent higher than the full, unsubsidized $549 cost in the United States.

  2. It seems a bit naïve for Apple to be touting its new iPhones' 100 Mbps peak data download speeds when used on LTE networks, given that numerous operators around the world are already improving their LTE networks so they can deliver 150 Mbps. For example, Everything Everywhere (EE) in the UK, NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom in Germany have already upgraded their networks to support 150 Mbps. That is a trend likely to continue as LTE operators seek to secure competitive advantage vis-à-vis their direct rivals.

  3. The newest iPhones include dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support for up to 150 Mbps. However, I was surprised to see no support for single-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which has been available in the HTC One since February of this year and was offered soon after in Samsung's Galaxy S4 and Mega. Apple included dual-stream 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac in the Macbook Air it unveiled in June, raising hopes that 802.11ac for the iPhone was just around the corner. It was not.

  4. The latest iPhones are also apparently not designed to accommodate LTE Advanced carrier aggregation. SK Telecom launched CA in June and was quickly followed onto the CA bandwagon by fellow South Korean operators LG U+ and KT. Thanks to the acquisition of new 1800 MHz spectrum, SK is already planning to use CA to combine 20 MHz at 1800 MHz and 10 MHz of spectrum at 800 MHz to deliver downlink speeds of up 225 Mbps by next year. Major U.S. operators also have CA on their roadmaps, but for now, Apple does not.

  5. It appears obvious that Apple iPhone support for near-field communications (NFC) will never happen. Apple is focusing instead on its Touch ID one-touch identification and m-commerce solution as well as its iBeacon Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology for delivering data over short distances to iPhones.

Of course, there were numerous other wireless features folks were hoping to see in the new iPhones. For example, Apple is not supporting the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) 700 MHz band plan being adopted by numerous countries across Asia Pacific and Latin America. Apple can certainly be forgiven for this, given that the 700 MHz FDD band 28 and TDD band 44 are mere twinkles in operators' eyes at this point.

And shockingly, the new iPhones still have the same diminutive 4-inch screen as the older iPhone 5. Not only that, but you still cannot use either of the new iPhones as a mini Hoverboard, they do not include a unicorn finder and they are not made of liquid metal.

The bottom line is that Apple was judicious in the features and capabilities it included in its newest smartphones. Personally, I think the new iPhone 5c and 5s are technologically impressive and beautiful devices, each in its own way. --Tammy

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