Analysts: iPhone 5 Needs Improved Technology

Smaller LTE chips should be out this spring

By now, the surprise of getting an iPhone 4S instead of the highly anticipated iPhone 5 has probably worn off, but the question still remains: Why is Apple waiting to release the latter?

According to Will Strauss, president of wireless chip market research firm Forward Concepts, there’s a good answer. Apple, he said, is waiting until LTE technology—better known as “4G”—is more compatible with compact smartphones. “They're saving iPhone 5 for the LTE version, and that won't be out until next spring,” he told CNET.

Apple has already made it clear it isn't planning to work with the current LTE technology. Back in April, then-COO Tim Cook said in an earnings call that the “first generation of LTE chip sets force a lot of design compromises,” which Apple apparently wasn’t willing to make.

Although LTE offers higher download and upload speeds than 3G, it’s clunky and would take up too much space in the super-slim iPhone (not to mention the fact that 4G still provides limited coverage). “The iPhone 4 PCB [printed circuit board] is already incredibly small, not leaving any room for an extra chip to enable LTE without shrinking the size of the battery (or increasing the thickness of the phone to accommodate both a larger PCB and a big battery),” explained Anand Shimpi, CEO of AnandTech and a chip expert.

“Next year [Q2, to be exact]”—which is when Qualcomm is expected to release a much smaller LTE chip—“should be when we can finally get LTE into something iPhone-sized,” said Shimpi.