Apple's iPhone 5 launch went down about as expected---a 4-inch screen, all aluminum and glass and thinner and lighter---but the real differentiator will be 4G LTE support and global coverage.
Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, took the stage in San Francisco and unveiled the iPhone 5. Naturally, the Apple exec touted how beautiful the device is but upgrades will largely be driven by speedier access.
To that end, Apple developed a single LTE chip that has one radio and a dynamic antenna. Apple touted "ultrafast wireless technology" and support for LTE, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA. That alphabet soup basically means that the iPhone 5 will hop between the fastest networks available everywhere. The dual carrier HSDPA will cover Europe nicely.
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Also note that Schiller talked up Apple engineering on its new LTE chip. Why? Samsung probably has the lawsuits ready to fly over LTE. Now keep in mind that Android devices have had LTE for a while and Apple has lagged. With iPhone and Android devices in the LTE fold, the carrier economics---and consumer data consumption---are going to change.
The carrier support for LTE, 4G and HSPA+ will break down like this:
- U.S.: Sprint, AT&T and Verizon.
- Asia: Softbank, Smartone, Singtel, SK Telecom.
- Europe: Deutsche Telekom, EE.
- Australia: Telstra, Optus, Virgin Mobile.
China wasn't mentioned, but analysts widely anticipate support for China Mobile, the largest carrier in that country, in the first half of 2013.
In addition, Apple has every flavor of Wi-Fi support coming.
Add it up and Apple can talk specs, chips and displays forever. But 4G and speedier networks combined with global distribution is what will carry the upgrade cycle, which is already expected to be massive.