Apple to cover international LTE standards via three hardware variants

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 08:31
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The iPhone 5 is en route.

And it looks like a nifty feat of engineering.

With the variety of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers available globally, Apple will be making three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers according to AppleInsider.

Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a “world phone,” albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for “4G” DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers’ 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

To cover its launch carriers’ LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple’s Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Kodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won’t happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard “EVDO rev A” 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan’s KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple’s other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that “band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.”

Finally, a third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn’t announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and Metro PCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple’s existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple’s existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm’s fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm’s patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm’s chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It’s not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China’s 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple’s partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple’s existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today’s LTE deployments.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Evidence of unknown iPad models surface in developers notes, speculation of forthcoming “iPad mini” grows

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Date: Friday, August 31st, 2012, 06:39
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

When in doubt, there’s always some interesting stuff in the logs.

Per the cool cats at MacRumors and his own blog, developer Marco Arment he noticed the two “curious entries” in Instapaper’s device stats on Friday, positing the device identifiers could offer clues to the supposed tablets’ internal hardware.

As a side note, Arment said, “There were also a few iPhone5,1 devices, but that’s not a surprise — that’s almost certainly next month’s new GSM iPhone,” but didn’t give specifics.

While Arment concedes the unknown “iPad2,5” and “iPad2,6” identifiers can conceivably be spoofed, he has “never had a device show up [on the logs] that didn’t end up being a real, about-to-be-released Apple device.”

Arment goes on to explain that when Apple first launched the iPad 2 in 2011, the Wi-Fi, GSM and CDMA versions were tagged with the internal designations iPad2,1, iPad2,2 and iPad2,3, respectively. Alongside the release of the New iPad in March, Apple unveiled a quietly updated iPad 2 Wi-Fi model with a new A5 processor manufactured on the 32nm process, identifying it as “iPad2,4.”

It is possible that the new “iPad2,5” and “iPad2,6” devices discovered by Arment could simply be GSM and CDMA versions of the iPad 2 carrying the 32nm A5 chip, but the developer believes such a move would be unusual so late in the product’s lifecycle.

If the unknown devices turn out to be a smaller iPad, Arment said, the Apple-assigned identifiers suggest “the iPad Mini is, effectively, an iPad 2” with an A5 processor and 512MB of RAM.

“This is all speculation, of course,” Arment writes, “but I’m convinced: like the leaked Dock connector, this move is so ingenius that it’s most likely to be what Apple has really done.

Apple is rumored to debut the so-called “iPad mini” at a special event in October. Many expect the tablet to sport a 7.85-inch screen and boast a design resembling an iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy now offering iPhone 4 for $50 with 2-year contract

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Date: Friday, July 27th, 2012, 07:46
Category: iPhone, News

You can’t argue with a cheap price.

Per AppleInsider, Best Buy is now selling Apple’s 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 for US$49.99 with a new two-year contract.

The new price is half that of the regular US$99 price for the iPhone 4 with a new service contract. Reseller Best Buy is offering the US$49.99 upgrade price on both the GSM iPhone 4 model, compatible with AT&T, as well as the CDMA variants, available for both Verizon and Sprint.

Best Buy’s website does not identify the new price as a temporary sale. The new price is the same that Best Buy charges for a refurbished iPhone 4, and the discount is available in both black and white models.

The price cut comes only days after Apple announced it sold 26 million iPhones in the June quarter, representing 28 percent growth over the same period a year prior. Investors viewed that number as disappointing, and AAPL stock took a hit as a result.

Apple executives said during their quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday that they believe the growth slowdown, particularly with respect to iPhone sales, was at least somewhat attributable to rumors of new products. The company is widely expected to launch its next-generation iPhone with a slightly larger 4-inch display later this year.

The iPhone 4 was first released in mid-2010 and marked the debut of the high-resolution Retina display, as well as the forward-facing FaceTime camera. It is currently Apple’s mid-range handset, resting between the newest model, the iPhone 4S, and the low-end iPhone 3GS, available for free with a two-year contract. Verizon and Sprint do not offer the iPhone 3GS, which means the iPhone 4 is Apple’s entry-level handset with those two carriers.

So, yeah…an iPhone 4 for 50 clams. Not the worst thing that’s ever happened…

Cricket Wireless to offer contract-free iPhone 4S, will sell units for $500

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Date: Thursday, May 31st, 2012, 10:57
Category: iPhone, News

It’s not the highest end wireless carrier in the world, but if it carries contract-free iPhones, who’s to criticize?

Per AppleInsider, on June 22, Cricket Wireless will become America’s first fully prepaid wireless carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone, with an “unlimited” US$55-per-month plan.

Cricket Wireless is a prepaid subsidiary of Leap Wireless, which offers “unlimited” data plans under a “fair usage policy” of 2.3 gigabytes per month. The small carrier with 6.2 million customers announced on Thursday that it will become the first prepaid carrier in the U.S. to offer the iPhone to its customers.

On June 22, Cricket will sell the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S contract-free for US$500, in addition to the 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 for US$400. Both will be compatible with the carrier’s “unlimited” US$55-per-month talk, text and data plan.

Customers will be able to buy both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 in Cricket company-owned stores and select dealers in nearly 60 markets. The iPhone will also be available for sale on the company’s official website, and over the phone at 800-853-7682.

Cricket offers wireless voice and mobile data services over 4G LTE and 3G CDMA wireless networks. Its parent company, Leap, is the owner of the seventh largest wireless telecommunications network in the U.S. with coverage in all 50 states.

Cricket is the latest regional wireless carrier to receive the iPhone, as Apple has been aggressively expanding the presence of its smartphone to smaller carriers in the U.S. Earlier this month, Apple added Kentucky’s Bluegrass Cellular, California’s Golden State Cellular, and Kansas’ Nex-Tech Wireless to its list of official carrier partners.

In April a total of five carriers began selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4: Alaska Communications, Appalachian Wireless, Cellcom, GCI and nTelos. And last October, the iPhone also launched on C Spire Wireless, a regional U.S. carrier with about 900,000 customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

U.S. government to work with wireless carriers to create national stolen phone database

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: iPhone, News

This could be perceived as sort of “Big Brother”-ish, but also pretty helpful.

Per the Wall Street Journal, four of the largest wireless carriers in the US are working with the US government to create a national stolen phone database. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile will develop their own databases and then merge them into a centralized server within the next 18 months. Eventually, regional carriers will also participate in this initiative.

The database will help carriers and law enforcement track lost and stolen phones. Besides tracking phones, carriers have agreed to block both calling and data services for these blacklisted phones. This will be an easy task for Verizon and Sprint, but not so simple for T-Mobile and AT&T.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint already track each subscriber’s phone using the phone’s unique electronic serial number. This lets them easily block any phone that’s been reported lost or stolen. AT&T and T-Mobile do not have a similar service in place, because their GSM phones use SIM cards. As long as you have a valid SIM card, you can use any phone, regardless of whether it is lost or stolen. These two GSM carriers are working on new technology that would let them track and block a phone using a unique ID.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Five regional U.S. wireless carriers to offer iPhone units, service starting April 20th

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Date: Wednesday, April 4th, 2012, 11:45
Category: iPhone, News

If you felt left out of the iPhone party, there’s a decent chance it’s coming to your area.

Per AppleInsider, a total of five regional U.S. carrier announced on Wednesday that they will begin selling Apple’s iPhone on April 20, as Alaska Communications, GCI, Appalachian Wireless and Cellcom join an earlier announcement from nTelos.

The iPhone 4S will become available to customers of five regional U.S. on April 20. It will be sold for US$50 cheaper than its traditional subsidized price at other carriers, starting at US$150 for the 16-gigabyte model, US$250 for 32 gigabytes, and US$350 for 64 gigabytes. The 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 will also be available for US$50.

And one of the carriers announced Wednesday, GCI, has a GSM network, which means it will also be able to offer Apple’s iPhone 3GS for free with a two-year contract.

Two of the carriers announced on Wednesday are based out of Alaska: Alaska Communications and GCI. The iPhone 4S will be available through Alaska Communications from its 14 retail stores, as well as the company’s website.

The carrier offers nationwide unlimited talk plans for US$90 with 2 gigabytes of data, while adding unlimited texting brings the monthly cost to US$101 and bumps the data cap up to 5 gigabytes. The subsidized iPhone pricing requires a two-year service contract.

Cellcom offers wireless service in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin, while Appalachian Wireless is based in Kentucky.

The announcement of four more wireless partners as an official carrier partner of Apple came on the same day that nTelos Wireless was also revealed. nTelos will also begin selling the iPhone 4S on April 20 to its more than 400,000 subscribers.

Apple began expanding availability of the iPhone to smaller, regional carriers last October when a deal with C Spire Wireless was announced. That carrier has about 900,000 customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Telecom announces iPhone 4S launch date of March 9th

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 08:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re overseas and have been waiting for the iPhone 4S, it’s almost here.

After months of ads, China Telecom has announced that it will begin sales of the newest iPhone on March 9, 2012. The company will begin taking reservations for the iPhone 4S on March 2 in anticipation of the rollout a week later according to MacStories.

China Telecom is the second largest carrier in China, and uses a CDMA network as opposed to the GSM network run by market leader China Unicom (which has been selling the iPhone 4S since January). The iPhone 4S is the first iPhone that can run on both networks without requiring separate models.

As part of China Telecom’s rollout, the carrier will be offering the 16 GB iPhone 4S for free with a 2 year contract. According to a tweet from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, China Unicom currently has 37 million 3G customers, with China Telecom adding another 33 million 3G users. That’s a huge potential iPhone 4S market for Apple, and one that the company is eager to tap.

During last week’s Goldman Sachs technology conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook made repeated references to the vast Chinese market and how the company is making that market a key target for its growth strategy in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S receives network license in China, will go on sale through China Unicom

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Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011, 10:23
Category: iPhone, Software

The iPhone 4S looks about ready for the big time in the Chinese marketplace.

Per M.I.C. Gadget, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was reported on Monday as having approved the iPhone 4S for sale in China. The HSPA 3G version of the phone has passed government tests, clearing it for sale on China Unicom. It should get a network license this week, Sina claimed.

No mention had been made of the CDMA version that might reach China Telecom, although recent tips have had it arriving in 2012. China Mobile is believed to be waiting on LTE before making the leap.

An approval marks the quickest turnaround between an iPhone’s first launch and its appearance in China. Apple is known to be thriving on Asian sales and will want to both seize on mainland Chinese sales as quickly as possible as well as curb the rise of Android in the country.

The smartphone is already on sale in Hong Kong and helped contribute to high tensions at the launch as bootleggers conflicted with genuine buyers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Some users reporting “Invalid SIM” error after updating iPhone 4S units to iOS 5.0.1

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Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 11:46
Category: iPhone, News, Software

This doesn’t bode too well…

Per AppleInsider, multiple users on Apple’s discussion boards complaining that the recent iOS 5.0.1 update has lead to messages that read “Invalid SIM” and “SIM Failure” on their iPhone 4S users. This person said the errors began occurring after they updated to iOS 5.0.1, though other users posting on Apple’s official Support Communities website, in a thread with more than 30,000 views to date, have experienced similar problems since the iPhone 4S first went on sale in October.

“This problem can only be solved when you reboot your iPhone,” the person, who is an AT&T customer, wrote in an e-mail. “Everything else fails — restore, removal of the SIM, etc.”

When users experience a SIM-card-related error, basic functions including making phone calls, sending text messages, and using mobile data become unavailable, as the handset cannot make a connection with the wireless data provider.

The iPhone 4S is a “world phone,” which means its redesigned antenna and internal components are compatible with both CDMA and GSM carriers. Micro SIM cards placed in the iPhone 4S are only used by GSM carriers to identify a subscriber and grant them access to a carrier’s wireless network.

But while only GSM carriers, like AT&T in the U.S., use the micro SIM slot on the iPhone 4S, users on CDMA carriers, like Verizon and Sprint, have also reported experiencing SIM-card-related errors. iPhone 4S units sold through CDMA carriers come with a “roaming SIM” installed, which allows CDMA customers to roam worldwide on GSM networks.

“No service on my white 32 GB 4S on Verizon,” user ‘racyb’ wrote in October. “Did a shutdown and reboot….it went into searching mode and finally found Verizon again after 1 minute. What is going on?”

Since the release of iOS 5.0.1 earlier this month, another thread at the Apple Support Communities website features more users who say the problems began occurring after they updated their iPhone 4S. Some say their iPhone displays full signal reception, yet error messages like “Call Failed” and “Invalid SIM” continue to display.

“Same problem here in Brazil,” user ‘GuiMedrado’ wrote on Wednesday. “Bought my 4S – 32GB unlocked in Switzerland and couldnt’ make it work after upgrading to 5.0.1. Any solution?”

The iOS 5.0.1 update was released earlier this month in an attempt to address battery life issues reported by some users. But some battery-related problems have remained, and Apple has publicly said it is still working to fix those issues.

One rumor this week claimed that Apple will issue a new update, iOS 5.0.2, no later than next week in a second attempt to improve battery life with iOS 5. There was no mention of any fixes for SIM card issues or error messages.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

Apple now offering unlocked, contract-free iPhone 4S units via online store to U.S. customers

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Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 10:40
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve wanted it since 2007 and it’s finally here.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has begun offering its unlocked iPhone 4S contract-free from the online store.

The unlocked iPhone 4S starts at US$649 for the 16GB model, while customers can also get a 32GB option for US$749, or 64GB for US$849. All three models are estimated to ship within one to two weeks when ordered from Apple’s online store.

The unlocked iPhone 4S is only supported on GSM networks, like AT&T in the U.S. Users can also obtain a micro-SIM card to use on overseas carriers when traveling abroad.

Customers of CDMA networks, like Verizon and Sprint, should not buy the unlocked iPhone 4S, because it cannot be activated on their networks, even though the iPhone 4S is a “world phone” compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks.

“If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice,” Apple’s official product description reads.

“It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the micro-SIM card into the slot on your iPhone and turn it on by pressing and holding the On/Off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPhone.”

The company warns that a credit check may be required for customers to buy the unlocked iPhone 4S, and the handset is only available to buy for customers who are 18 or older.

Apple first revealed that the new iPhone 4S would be sold unlocked and contract-free in October. The sale of the unlocked iPhone 4S at Apple’s online store in the U.S. means the company met is previously promised deadline of November.

The unlocked iPhone 4S arrives five months after Apple began selling the GSM iPhone 4 unlocked in June. The contract-free iPhone 4 also carried a starting price of $649 for 16GB.

Stay tuned for additional details and while it may be pricey, it’s the unlocked, contract-free freedom you’ve been hankering for.