For years now, 4G LTE has been heralded as the “next generation” of mobile community. Analysts now believe that the iPhone 5 will indeed be LTE, and its sales and popularity will make 4G LTE the new standard for smartphones.
We’ll know for sure in a couple of months once the iPad 3 is released, but it looks highly probable that 4G LTE is finally coming to the iPhone 5 this year. Last week, Bloomberg reported last week that the iPad 3 is now in production and will indeed feature LTE. And by extension, if the iPad 3 gets LTE, so too will this year’s iPhone.
You may recall that an interesting survey was conducted not long after the iPhone 4S was released that highlighted what iPhone users saw lacking in the 4S. We did a post about it that is worth taking a second look at. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the lack of a larger screen that irked iPhone enthusiasts, but rather the lack of LTE. In this way, it would appear that the mobile computing community is more or less ready for 4G LTE to become the new standard.
The U.S. mobile networks seems to agree: Verizon and Sprint have invested copious amounts of resources into getting their 4G LTE network infrastructure up to snuff, with the sense that 2012 is going to be the technology’s breakout year. AT&T has perhaps been a bit less high-profile with its own LTE investitures, but given the company’s product-leading persona, there is no doubt that all three of the big three iPhone carriers in the U.S. will be ready to go with a true 4G network, once the iPhone 5 is released.
Now all we need is for the iPhone 5 to be LTE.
And according to new reports, the popularity of the iPhone 5, together with it featuring LTE, will effectively put 4G LTE on the map as the new standard in mobile communications. According to Appleinsider, “LTE smartphones could represent as much as 5 percent of global shipments this year, reaching between 25 million and 30 million units. It noted that while LTE devices are currently a small portion of cell phone sales, that is expected to change in the second half of the year, when Apple is rumored to join the fray.”
In other words, once Apple rolls out an LTE iPhone 5 and sells heaps of millions of them, LTE is going to become an exponentially increasing slice of the smartphone pie.
It is true that Android has been first to market with LTE smartphones, as the analyst in the above-quoted article notes. But he also implied what we all know intuitively: that Apple and Apple alone is the brand that the tech world expects to roll out new technologies. When he says, “While Android (is) still dominating the LTE smartphone segment, Nokia and HTC have launched LTE Windows Phone models, and Apple and RIM are expected to release comparable models running on their own platforms in the second half of 2012,” he is intimating the obvious: the iPhone 5 will be the game-changer in LTE, just as the iPad mainstreamed the tablet PC and the original iPhone pioneered the smartphone as we now know it.
The iPhone 5 Could Make 3G Smartphones Seem Obsolete Very Quickly
The impact of an LTE iPhone 5 in the mobile computing marketplace could be dramatic, with the new iPhone creating a virtual “black hole” that will quickly swallow up the 3G market and make all such devices seem like legacy hardware. Just as 3G quickly became the standard for mobile technology, so too could 4G force all manufacturers to retool for 4G LTE. By 2013, 3G might be a thing of the past.
This could mean crushingly high sales for Apple and the iPhone 5, living up to the bold sales predictions for the iPhone 5 made last year.
We often assume that new iPhone iterations look to onboard users from two iterations back. For example, the perception is that 3G and 3GS users mostly bought the iPhone 4S, while iPhone 4 users were still content to stick with their model and await the iPhone 5. There is conflicting data on this theory. But whether or not it is true, an LTE iPhone 5 could onboard a broad swath of users into 4G LTE — even many of the folks who bought into the iPhone 4S in 2011.
It would not even surprise me if Apple and the U.S. carriers make concessions to allow 4S customers to upgrade to the iPhone 5, even if it is released before the contract minimums. We can assume, after all, that 4G LTE will bring with it new revenue streams for the mobile carriers, who would be more than happy to subsidize a new iPhone and expand their revenues horizontally and residually. In this way, all current iPhone users could be nudged into abandoning their 3G iPhones for the new LTE iPhone 5.
The iPhone 5S in 2013: Count On It
Finally, a prediction: a pattern is developing, and I think we’ll see not the iPhone 6, but rather an iPhone 5S in 2013. In addition to the 3G/3GS, 4/4S pattern, I think that Apple will use two iterations — the dramatically overhauled iPhone 5 LTE and a refreshed 5S — to completely do away with its 3G smartphones and give all of the iPhone users an opportunity to get on the iPhone 5 train. The 5S will most likely be like the 4S: improved processors and software upgrades, all of which will benefit from the faster LTE. But we very well might not be discussing an iPhone 6 until the middle of 2013, with a release date sometime in — wow! — 2014.
By Michael Nace