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iPhone 5 and iPad 2's secret weapon could be Qualcomm's Gobi chip

Ripping apart the new Verizon US iPhone 4 has revealed Qualcomm's Gobi chip lurking inside. We think this could spell good news for anyone roaming with an iPhone 5 or iPad 2 in the future.

Could the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 let you mix and match operators according to your location, making them true world-roaming devices? That's what we're wondering after finding out that the new Verizon iPhone 4 includes Qualcomm's MDM6600 Gobi chip.

Why? Let us explain. Apple is famously unwilling to cough up too much information on which chips are inside its devices, meaning the only way to find out is to rip them apart. 9 to 5 Mac and iFixyouri have done just that for the new iPhone 4 model, revealing the Gobi chip.

The news made us think back to Qualcomm's press briefings when Gobi was first announced a few years ago, as an "embedded mobile wireless solution" for laptops and netbooks.

As the official website explains in its introduction, Gobi's raison d'etre is providing "freedom from having to locate hotspots, more choice in carrier networks, and, ultimately, freedom to Gobi where you want without fear of losing connectivity". It goes on to ask this question: "Would you like your notebook to provide a choice of wireless network carriers and global connectivity possibilities? No matter where you travel?"

We have another question: as an iPhone or iPad user, isn't this making you prick up your ears? It is ours. As the site explains elsewhere, in its Benefits section, "end users can use their favorite carrier to connect wherever life takes them" while also connecting more easily and quickly to Wi-Fi hotspots.

There's also a Gobi website that hammers the point home in its Consumer section, stressing that devices using the chip let you "choose from multiple carriers worldwide for the best coverage and rates" and "switch wireless carriers at any time through the life of your laptop".

Before we get carried away, here's one obvious point: Qualcomm's Gobi chip may be in the Verizon iPhone 4, but that's no guarantee it will be in the iPhone 5 and iPad 2. It's just a pretty strong hint. What's more, if you buy one of those devices from an operator, chances are they won't be too keen on the whole 'switch to whoever you want at any point' idea.

Still, the idea of an unlocked iPhone 5 and iPad 2 that lets you flick between operators at home and abroad without having to switch SIM cards around or sign up to service plans? We don't know exactly how that could work -- maybe a popup that says, "You're in France! Which operator would you like to buy data from?" Whatever, count us intrigued.