Apple's next-generation iPad, presumably called the iPad 3, will be the first Apple device to accommodate the high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple will be working with Verizon Wireless and AT&T to sell the iPad 3 with LTE, which is said to be unveiled on March 7 and released shortly thereafter. But if Apple releases its next iPad with LTE, it's a near-certainty that the high-speed network will come to the company's next-gen smartphone. Sources believe Apple will unveil the iPhone 5 in June at the Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) 2012 in San Francisco.
LTE offers, among other things, higher download and upload speeds than 3G and 4G networks. Apple hoped to feature LTE in the iPhone 4S, but due to its drain on battery life, CEO Tim Cook nixed LTE from the smartphone because first generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises. The only way LTE would have made it onto the iPhone 4S is if Apple increased the thickness of the iPhone to accommodate the chipset.
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, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and CEO of Anandtech.
Apple's luck changed in December, when reports surfaced that Qualcomm had developed a new, thinner LTE chipset, which is considerably smaller than current LTE chipsets and drains much less battery than the original model. The new chip was originally expected to debut in the second or third quarter of 2012, but it looks like Apple hastened the process so LTE is included in time for its next iPad.
If the iPad 3 receives an LTE chipset, there's no doubt the iPhone 5 will get it too. Will Strauss, president of market research firm Forward Concepts, said in October that he believed the iPhone 5's release is ultimately dependent upon the availability of viable LTE chipsets for ultra-thin smartphones.
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They're saving iPhone 5 for the LTE version and that won't be out until next spring, Strauss said.
Back in September, when iPhone 5 rumors reached a fever pitch, Apple was reportedly working on two different phones, and many believed both would be unveiled at the Oct. 4 even in Cupertino, Calif. Fans were initially disappointed to learn that only one phone was uncovered at the event, and that phone wasn't an iPhone 5. (It didn't matter in the long-term; the iPhone 4S went on to become the most successful smartphone in Apple's history.)
It's completely possible that Apple did in fact have two smartphones ready, but when they learned that LTE wasn't ready for the phone's presumably thin design, they decided to delay its release. That decision probably worked out best for Apple, which has maintained an unprecedented amount of hype around its products for about six months now.
iPhone 5 prototypes are already springing up. Several samples of the iPhone 5 are floating around the Foxconn floor in China, according to inside sources from the plant, and each of the samples vary from each other in subtle ways. There are, however, a number of common features among the smartphone prototypes, including a display that measures at least four inches -- every iPhone until that point only had a 3.5-inch screen -- and a longer and wider form factor that does not match that of the iPhone 4 or 4S. The iPhone 5 prototypes also reportedly retain the rounded rectangular shape of its predecessors, which temporarily put to bed any rumors of a thinner teardrop shape. Knowing Apple, of course, drastic design changes can occur at any moment, and the teardrop could make a comeback.
Previous reports have said the Apple iPhone 5 will feature an improved version of Siri, the voice-activated AI system that was only released as a beta in the iPhone 4S, as well as a bigger screen. In November, Hitachi and Sony reportedly began shipping 4-inch LCD panels for final production of new iOS devices believed to be the next-generation iPhone. Upgrading the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen to a 4-inch display would require a rebuilt Retina Display, but a bigger screen would help Apple compete against phone makers that make bigger screens, such as Samsung, while also providing a more immersive iPhone experience.
Before Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, the Internet was flooded with photos of a thin, large-screen iPhone 4. The photos were widely believed to be doctored until one Chinese website discovered mold engineerings of an iPhone 4 with a noticeably larger screen. The renderings depicted an edge-to-edge design for the iPhone's screen, which looked to measure about 3.7 inches. Component industry trackers believed that the images represented Apple's wish to compete with rival devices with bigger screens.
Apple wants its next generation of mobile devices to look beautiful, and the company is reportedly working on giving its devices greater pixel density. Bigger screens with more pixels in the Retina Display mean higher resolution for watching movies and viewing detailed images, from PDFs to X-rays to MRIs to 3D architectural renderings. Even text will appear rich and razor-sharp. Sources say Apple's next iPad will reportedly outshine the current model by doubling the pixel density, with a display resolution somewhere in the ballpark of 2048 x 1536 pixels, and many believe the iPhone 5 will also feature a bigger and improved Retina Display.
Apple's iPhone 5 may also include a number of the company's recently granted patents, including NFC functionality to complete sales transactions and share work across multiple devices, as well as its crack-resistant glass solution. A shock mount between the glass and the body of the device will instantly inflate if the device senses it's falling, which is determined by the device's internal accelerometer. An actuator within the device sucks in the cover glass as it accelerates to the ground, protecting it from damage.
On Jan. 24, Cook released Apple's record-breaking Q1 2012 earnings, announcing $46.33 billion in overall earnings, $13.1 billion in profit and $17.5 billion in cash for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2011. In the last 14 weeks of the year, Apple sold 37 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs.
We're thrilled with our outstanding results and record-breaking sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs, Cook said. Apple's momentum is incredibly strong, and we have some amazing new products in the pipeline.