Apple has been an LTE straggler -- maybe that's a good thing

Apple has taken its sweet time with LTE on the iPhone. Apple says it has good reasons.

Apple's Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 5 and LTE on Wednesday.
Apple's Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 5 and LTE on Wednesday. James Martin/CNET

Apple has taken a wait-and-see approach to 4G LTE, and that may pay off for the iPhone 5.

While LTE on Verizon's network has become a standard offering for Android phones over the last year or so, Apple CEO Tim Cook has resisted -- until Wednesday.

Cook always said pretty much the same thing: iPhone-use LTE chipsets aren't good enough yet for Apple.

And he had a point. Previous generations of LTE tech had power-consumption and chip-integration tradeoffs. Plus, Verizon's build-out of LTE has been steady but slow. (It just reached an area near my stomping grounds, an immediate suburb of Los Angeles.)

Now, Apple is saying it is doing "LTE...The right way," according to Apple's iPhone 5 Web page, where it addresses past issues.

"LTE wireless technology is built for speed, but adding it to a phone can create bulk and drain battery life quickly. iPhone 5 does LTE the right way -- optimized for better battery life and designed for ultrafast connectivity in a thin profile."

Apple obviously thinks it has met the LTE challenge by offering "up to 8 hours" of "Internet use" on LTE. Even better than the stated 6 hours of Internet use on 3G for the iPhone 4S.

Only reviews will show if the claims are real, but Apple tends to be relatively conservative, so the numbers are encouraging.

But what isn't clear is how it gets there. For example, the iPhone can't do simultaneous voice and data on Verizon's and Sprint's networks.

That's an issue I thought about long and hard before I eventually decided to go with Verizon's 3G on my iPhone 4S. (Though, to be honest, it hasn't been a big issue for me.)

Will this impact buying decisions in a big way? I don't think so. The most important thing for most users is battery life. So, Apple's laggard-by-design strategy may pay off.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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