The new 4G LTE technology found in Apple’s newest phone, the iPhone 5, has been a must-have for many iPhone 4S users for some time. Android phones have had 4G LTE for the last two years or so, and many iPhone customers feel that Apple could have implemented the technology months ago; as with Siri, however, Apple decided to wait 8 or 9 months until it could see how the new technology would survive before featuring it into a new iOS device. Apple did the same with 4G LTE, which seemed as though it was a smart move.
Unfortunately for Apple, the iPhone 5 presentation on 4G LTE last Wednesday (September 12, 2012) has been the highlight of 4G LTE. Right after the technology was announced on stage, news spread that 4G LTE would become a thorn in the side of phone carriers and customers. Prior to the iPhone’s announcement, AT&T announced that it would only grant FaceTime over 3G to its mobile share data plan customers, enraging many AT&T customers and setting many on the path of leaving AT&T for Verizon Wireless. Finally, after a week or more had passed, AT&T admitted that its 3G network could not handle the data load of voice and Internet data surfing. Last Wednesday when the iPhone 5 was released, AT&T announced that it would allow its customers to retain their unlimited data plans or upgrade to one of their new mobile data share plans to access 4G LTE. AT&T announced in a press release,
“We offer customers the flexibility to keep the iPhone data plans they already have or choose any of our individual or new Mobile Share plans. We’re proud that more customers choose AT&T for iPhone than any other U.S. carrier and look forward to making iPhone 5 the newest addition to our lineup” (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/att-to-offer-iphone-5-on-the-nations-largest-4g-network-on-sept-21-169517146.html).
With 4G LTE technology now in the works, the question remains: will AT&T allow FaceTime over 4G to only mobile share data plan users? Apparently so. It appears that mobile share data plan users will have access to FaceTime over 4G, but the remaining data plan customers will need to use WiFi to access FaceTime. In time, users will see their data plans save money—which allows them to save money for other luxuries and necessities.
FaceTime over 4G will be a problem for AT&T customers who do not adapt mobile share data plans, but it will also serve as a problem for Sprint and Verizon customers as well. Mashable’s Kate Abbott stated last week that neither Sprint nor Verizon will allow customers the ability to both talk and surf the web simultaneously:
“Verizon has confirmed that its version of the iPhone 5 will not support simultaneous use of voice and data over its LTE network—and that means Sprint’s model won’t, either…According to Apple, both Verizon and Sprint will offer the same version of the iPhone 5, so Sprint’s phone will not support simultaneous use either…AT&T’s iPhone—which uses GSM technology rather than CDMA—does allow for simultaneous talking and web surfing” (http://mashable.com/2012/09/13/verizon-sprint-iphone-5-still-wont-let-you-browse-and-talk-even-on-lte/).
Why does AT&T allow voice and data operations side-by-side while Verizon and Sprint do not? An Apple spokesperson responded:
“[The] iPhone 5 supports simultaneous voice and data on GSM-based 3G and LTE networks. It is not yet possible to do simultaneous voice and data on networks that use CDMA for voice and LTE for data in a single radio design” (Kate Abbott, “Verizon, Sprint iPhone 5 Still Won’t Let You Browse and Talk.” Mashable: September 13, 2012).
AT&T, running on GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications) technology, can allow them; Verizon and Sprint, running on CDMA technology (code division multiple access) cannot. As the Apple spokesperson said, it is currently “not yet possible” to allow both operations with a CDMA+ LTE processing chip such as Apple’s A6. If you want to use FaceTime over 3G while surfing the web as an AT&T customer, you can. If you want to use FaceTime over 3G or 4G while surfing the web as a Sprint or Verizon Wireless customer, you will be unable to do so. Jon Fingas at Engadget gets right to the point:
“…iPhone 5 units for Verizon, Sprint, and every other CDMA carrier still won’t let you check your email in mid-call without WiFi. If that’s an issue, you’ll have to turn to AT&T (or T-Mobile with an unlocked phone) to get your fix” (Jon Fingas, “Apple Confirms IPhone 5 Won’t Do Simultaneous Voice and LTE Data on CDMA Networks.” Mashable, September 13, 2012).
This will prove to be difficult for both Verizon and Sprint customers who want to incorporate 4G LTE as they have done their 3G cellular network. Although AT&T allows voice and data simultaneously, customers who want FaceTime over 3G (and now 4G) must have a mobile share data plan. It seems as though AT&T is the way to go.
AT&T has one more factor in its favor than just simultaneous voice and data; it also has faster speeds than Verizon Wireless. While Verizon has a legitimate 4G LTE network, AT&T operates on what is known as an HSPA+ network, a network that has faster Internet, voice, and download speeds than Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately, not all places across the globe will have HSPA+ (since it is rare when compared to LTE networks), so Verizon will provide the most consistent data and voice experience if you are someone who travels for business purposes often. If not, staying with AT&T is an excellent idea.
So, you may have your carrier figured out (the race is between Sprint and Verizon) for your iPhone 5 voice and data services. However, the iPhone 5 is still a “Catch-22,” even if you decide on your phone carrier; why? Because Apple and the new product may be slammed with a lawsuit in the near future. CNET and Mashable report that Samsung (prior to the iPhone 5 announcement last Wednesday) plans to sue Apple for its use of 4G LTE technology in its newest flagship phone. Upon further research, I learned that HTC plans to sue Apple along with Samsung in a dual-partnership lawsuit against the Cupertino, California company. Nokia owns the majority of LTE patents at 18.9%, while Samsung owns 12.2%. HTC has numerous patents, since it was the first company to produce a 4G device back in 2010 with its HTC Evo 4G smartphone. With two of the top LTE patent holders in alliance against Apple (Nokia being excepted), Apple’s iPhone 5 may have many customers upset if the phone is banned between now and the Christmas season. As one site commenter said:
“While Apple has a couple of LTE patents, Samsung has over 800. You should be very scared for Apple right now. Apple knows they are infringing on HTC’s patents. Instead of trying to license them, they are trying to invalidate them. If a US judge won’t invalidate patents on gestures and black rounded rectangles, how do you figure they [sic] are going to invalidate some real technology? HTC will be in full position to invalidate Apple’s iPhone (yeah, they stole nearly ever piece of tech the software has). I don’t think HTC will ban Apple’s device, but I know one company that will happily do it—Samsung. Be afraid, iFan. Be very afraid.”
I do not agree that the technology of Apple’s is not real (in contrast to the site commenter), but I do agree that Android manufacturers will win the 4G LTE patent lawsuit. After all, the commenter makes sense: if rounded corners and icons are what made a jury (with little technical knowledge whatsoever) rule in favor of Apple, what makes Apple think that a jury will not rule in favor of Samsung and HTC when these two manufacturers pull out their patents and claim they have owned their patents for a much longer time than Apple? What defense could Apple amass that would make a jury believe them over long-standing LTE patent owners? If a jury saw Apple as having rights over its patents that should be respected, what makes Apple think a judge and jury will not see that HTC’s and Samsung’s LTE patents should be respected as well?
These issues with 4G LTE (carriers, simultaneous voice and data, Internet speeds, and lawsuits over LTE patents) makes the new iPhone something of a Catch-22 for iPhone customers. If they decide to purchase the iPhone 5 and place it in their hands, will they have to compromise on its 4G LTE service? In many ways, the answer to this question is “yes”.