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Verizon's, Sprint's iPhone 5S, 5C won't juggle data, voice

Just like the iPhone 5 for Verizon and Sprint, the iPhone 5S won't be able to simultaneously browse the Internet while making a call, unlike the AT&T and T-Mobile versions.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
2 min read
The iPhone 5S for Verizon and Sprint still has one missing feature. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Here's one trick the iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C for Verizon Wireless and Sprint still won't be able to pull off: the ability to simultaneously browse the Internet and make a phone call over the cellular network.

That's according to Apple, which confirmed the limitation a day after unveiling its latest flagship smartphone.

That the new iPhones won't be able to juggle voice and data isn't a surprise -- it's been a lingering drawback for all previous iPhones that ran on Verizon and Sprint's network. Verizon and Sprint's phones run on a network technology called CDMA, which can't juggle voice and data. While Verizon and Sprint have moved to LTE for faster data, that network also isn't compatible with CDMA.

The iPhone, however, can run data and voice at the same time if working off of a Wi-Fi network.

In contrast, AT&T and T-Mobile run on a technology called GSM, which alongside the more advanced LTE technology can juggle voice and data at the same time. Indeed, it was one of the key advantages that AT&T loudly touted when Verizon first began selling the iPhone and presented Apple fans with an alternative carrier.

Hands-on with Apple's high-end iPhone 5S (pictures)

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Apple said the network technology prevents voice and data, and that it isn't a problem specific to the iPhone. But other handset manufacturers have added in separate radios that enable the simultaneous voice and data over the cellular network, though the feature isn't universally available. The HTC Thunderbolt, for instance, was able to juggle both tasks, thanks to its additional radios.

Verizon and Sprint users can look to voice over LTE as an eventual solution to the voice-data dilemma -- when the devices drop using the older cellular networks completely. But that remains a while away. Verizon, for instance, said the first voice over LTE phone won't come out until next year.

Updated at 12:13 p.m. PT: to include the iPhone 5C, which shares the same limitation.

CNET's Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.

First Look
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