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4G chips in iPhone 5 'too big and costly': analyst

Next iPhone unlikely to carry 4G chips

After speculation that Apple will be introducing 4G LTE chips to the next generation iPhone, iSuppli has said that it is unlikely due to the increase in size and cost that it would cause.

LTE (3GPP Long Term Evolution) is the next generation of the standard for mobile phone technology after 3G. (It's often marketed as 4G, although early versions don't fully comply with 4G requirements). In the US Verizon has already announced plans to convert its networks to LTE, and in the UK O2 has just announced that it is beginning roll out of LTE, although it is unlikely that 4G will reach the whole of the UK until 2013.

Senior Analyst for HIS-iSuppli, Wayne Lam, said in a note on Friday: "It remains to be seen whether the next Apple iPhone set for introduction in September will support 4G LTE. However, if it does, two things are clear. First the iPhone's minuscule printed circuit board (PCB) will have to grow in size in order to support the first-generation LTE baseband processor as well as all the supporting chipset. Second, the next iPhone's BOM value certainly will increase substantially compared to the iPhone 4 if LTE is implemented in the same manner as in the HTC ThunderBolt."

Lam's note shows that using 4G LTE wireless standard in the HTC ThunderBolt added a significant amount to the cost of the smartphone, which would mean that Apple's next iPhone would be more expensive than the iPhone 4 if the LTE chips were used.

According to Lam, Apple could add LTE to the next-generation iPhone, but would have to take a similar design approach to the ThunderBolt. However, Apple's chief operating officer said at the company's April 2011 earnings call: "The first generation of LTE chipsets forced a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make."

The second generation of the LTE solution is set to arrive next year, which would enable Apple to introduce the chips to a new iPhone in the quarter two of 2012.


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