Apple's iPhone 4S is not LTE, but it's a "world phone" - where will it work?

Apple's iPhone 4S is not LTE, but it's a
One of the big reasons, besides the two-year duration of carrier contracts, for not outing a completely redesigned iPhone with 4G LTE baseband radio, is that the first-gen LTE chips, like the Qualcomm MDM9600 are just too fat for fitting well into the crammed circuitry of one of the thinnest phones out there, and they are battery hogs.

As usual, Apple went with the golden middle, allowing iPhone 4 owners to switch to something much grander only at the end of their 2-year contracts in 2012, getting all the 3GS folks who expire this year to jump straight to dual-core, and waiting it out for the second slim and efficient generation LTE chips like Qualcomm's MDM9615. That chip is currently sampling with manufacturers, including Apple, and will most likely be into phones in time for the usual June/July iPhone upgrade cycle next year.

Apple went with the next best thing, though, and included another gem from Qualcomm inside the iPhone 4S - its combined GSM/CDMA baseband "Gobi" chip. It doesn't add much to the cost compared with separate radios, but now one and the same device can get 3G speeds on Verizon, Sprint, Indian and Latin American CDMA carriers, as well as hook you up to any GSM carrier worldwide. 

The baseband radio supports T-Mobile's AWS 1700MHz spectrum, but the carrier might have not been in the cards due to the potential merger with AT&T anyway, so the needed RF chip and power amplifier are probably skipped by Apple altogether in the 4S.

Since Apple says the iPhone 4S goes up to 14.4Mbps downloads on GSM networks, the baseband radio inside is most likely Qualcomm's MDM6600 "Gobi" solution in the Verizon iPhone 4, which "supports HSPA+ data rates of up to 14.4 Mbps and CDMA2000® 1xEV-DO Rev. A/Rev. B". 

Granted, there are 21Mbps HSPA+, and even 42Mbps phones out there, like the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Amaze 4G, but good luck getting such speeds in real-world scenarios on AT&T, for example.


In light of last year's "you are holding it wrong" fiasco, Apple has probably taken every precaution that connectivity and switching between bands and carriers are made as seamless as possible, integrating two antennas in the iPhone 4S. Does it meas you can take your Sprint or Verizon handset, go to Europe, pop in a prepaid SIM card and save on the exorbitant international roaming charges?

Well, probably not. If history is any indication, the carriers will lock the iPhone 4S to their networks. We already have "world phones" - the Motorola Droid Pro, the BlackBerry Bold 9930, the HTC Trophy, the Motorola Photon 4G, and Motorola Droid Bionic, to name a few. Verizon and Sprint's "world" handsets are usually prevented to use AT&T or T-Mobile at home, even if they are unlocked for GSM networks abroad, and we have no reason to believe the iPhone 4S will be any different. Also, "unlocking" for CDMA networks is a whole different ballgame than for GSM ones, so for modders the iPhone 4S will be a tough nut to crack.

The handset will be available next week October 14 in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany and France and 22 countries will follow October 28 - Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

By year-end the iPhone 4S will be on 100 carriers in 70 countries, just don't expect to be happily globetrotting between CDMA and GSM carriers in them with your iPhone, despite the "world" chip inside. Those $500+ subsidies have to be recovered by carriers somehow.

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15 Comments

1. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i love how the apple graph completely ignores the fact that there is a half dozen or more sets that go 21mb/s+, not even including the LTE ones. false advertisement at its best. on an up note, i really hope more companies use the global radio chips. When they do that though, they need to include every carriers 3g/4g signals in there though, so we can just bounce to whatever network we want without having to worry about restrictions.

8. corps1089

Posts: 492; Member since: Jan 20, 2010

Maximum Data Speeds (HSDPA) which allows 14.4Mbps. not HSPA+, which allows 21 or 42 or 84Mbps [3GPP release 9] I guess the graph was not intended to show who rules in theoretical speed, only those phones comparable to the iPhone 4S

2. Juice unregistered

Yeah what a way to skew it in your favor. Don't highlight your data speed when it's last gen. No?

3. dionddc

Posts: 129; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

Thanks for playing catch up Apple, how about coming in first for once? Nexus Prime is about to wipe the floor. Is anyone going to buy this device?

4. nosoupforyou unregistered

It's not an advertisement, it's a graph providing a comparison with other devices.

7. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

comparison with HSDPA phones (non 4g).. not even Wimax and especially not Tmo HSPA+ phones and LTE phones.. lol

5. master0fursinz

Posts: 104; Member since: Apr 26, 2010

its just a grapdh showing max hsdpa, now for the actual phone to reach those speeds is different also even if they are comparing other phones they really need to compare to other phones with 3g radios, not hsdpa+ phones cause thats just looking wrong, it is expected for 4g gsm phones to reach 14.4 at average when the cap for hsdpa+ is what 21 Mbps. come on apple go back and talk to your experts for next time. dont toss a 4g phone in the arena and say we can do that too.

6. jcanderson47

Posts: 3; Member since: Sep 23, 2011

it is showing who it is comparable to! if you were selling your product would you say in comparison to the best we are only 7th ??? no you'd say we are up there with x, y, and z!!!! chill out people. you don't want it ??!! don't buy it!!!!!

9. galaxy2 unregistered

hell i see no india yet again ... well the only option we have is to " ignore" ...huh ..

10. nofan unregistered

BGR Correction --- Droid Bionic is not a world phone (or at least cannot be used as such right now)

11. Castle unregistered

so, does this so-called "world phone" support OMH R-UIM?

12. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

AT&T is the best choice if you want a world phone. you can use their GSM coverage over in Europe.

13. lostthebattle unregistered

I think Anything above 10 mbps is an overkill for a phone. I use to be an apple fanboy till they announced the 4s, they have let many people down by not giving us the iPhone 5. Now I own gs2 and this phone is amazing. As proud they feel from having loyal customers that will earn them billions, well that's about to change. Apple era will be over soon.

14. BlakeTheBear unregistered

So, will the 4S be able to access T-Mobile's, Cincinnati Bell's, & Wind Mobile's AWS 1700MHz frequencies (UMTS IV Bands) when you pop your SIM in an unlocked model?! No mobile blog anywhere will answer that question!

15. alpinejason

Posts: 262; Member since: Sep 06, 2011

probably because no-one knows just yet i mean it hasent even been released yet.

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