The title should actually have been “What if Apple Could Divorce the Carriers Today”. It won’t happen of course, but what if they could? I believe they would if they could and “could” is a lot closer than it was 4 years ago when the acquiescence to the US Carrier subsidy model the launch of the iPhone 3G represented occurred.

The most import number to be revealed today is not the number 5 in the naming of the new iPhone, but the number of LTE bands Apple has managed to cram into 6th generation iPhone. Assuming they have support for both Verizon and AT&T’s diverging utilization of the 700 MHZ band in the US, as well as the nascent (for LTE) AWS frequency (and more on that in a bit regarding T-Mobile USA), it is now easy to guess of support for 1800 in the UK for the newly branded EE, or Everything Everywhere partnership between Orange and T-Mobile. Australia carriers Telstra and Optus also use 1800 MHZ, as do a smattering of other carriers across Europe. The 900 MHZ band the other UK carriers will bid for in next year seems unlikely to be included, and China Mobile’s eventual implementation of TD-LTE 800 MHZ also seems unlikely to make the cut as my guess would be they get their own special SKUs? I didn’t forget Sprint and their refarming of 1900 MHZ which I also think misses inclusion, but Sprint still owns much of Clearwire and its wide swaths of 2600 MHZ spectrum and this band (in addition to AWS) is also being utilized across Canada, Europe, and South America.

So that’s 5 bands I think we’ll see support for in the iPhone 5/the New iPhone: 700 (band 17) for AT&T, 700 (band 13) for Verizon, 1800, 2600, and AWS. Which brings me back to T-Mobile USA and their seemingly sad predicament.

Apple surely must have stumbled upon an engineering challenge they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) solve: how do you make the antenna(s?) for the AWS band serve both DC-HSPA+ and LTE? If you can’t or you shan’t, then you likely warn T-Mobile – if your Apple and you’re interested in a highly competitive set of US carriers so as to prevent the onslaught of the 2 headed beast: AT&T and Verizon. You might suggest to T-Mobile they begin the process of refarming their 1900 MHZ spectrum for DC-HSPA+ (42mbps) and when you see T-Mobile miracuously acquire enough AWS frequency to launch a fledgling LTE network in 2013, you nod your head in satisfied agreement and silently plan accordingly.

T-Mobile has already announced they intend to service unlocked iPhones in their stores and it isn’t hard to imagine Apple themselves promoting the usage of unlocked iPhones on T-Mobile’s network which means they must consider price points and that is where I’ll bring this all together. An unlocked iPhone 5 at $599.99 that I could move between all 4 major US carriers would be very compelling and therefore, a huge shot across the bow of the aforementioned 2 headed beast. Verizon and AT&T smartly have no avenue by which you can get prepaid access to their LTE networks, but when there is enough demand they will. If then the LTE capable iPhone 5 (I’ve obviously given in) is under $600, then might the iPhone 4S be under $400, and might it also have new support for DC-HSPA+? (Does this also mean the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 will be put out to pasture?)

Would these two price points – $599.99 for the 5 and $399.99 for the 4S – make it possible for Apple to ditch the subsidy model and be effectively the sole distributor of the iPhone in the US? Are American consumers ready to have a conversation about the iPhone’s Total Cost of Ownership? If indeed they are then Apple is without a doubt the best teaching institution to begin that training session, and I can’t wait for the first class to begin!

Update: Instead we get an LTE Band/Carrier Specific clusterf… and this portends inherent carrier lock in with subsidy and no need on the part of the carrier to actually SIM lock, or nano SIM lock I should say.  The dream of moving an unlocked iPhone from one LTE network to another couldn’t feel farther away now……

Why would I make such a seemingly stupid claim you ask?  How many first weekend sales of an iPad 2 design inspired iPhone 5 would there have been? (regardless of whether it has 4G) Now subtract from that number  the record 4 million iPhone 4Ss Apple sold and that’s how much money/mindshare Apple left on the table.  A hefty percentage of that money/mindshare will likely flow to Samsung (and their channel partners) when they release whatever superphone they’re going to announce tonight with Google, and at least some of it will flow to Motorola/Verizon when they start selling the super thin LTE capable DROID RAZR next month.

Apple could have delivered a severe body blow to Android and a potential death blow to Blackberry, Windows Phone, and WebOS (okay probably already dead, but I can’t let go yet) and they refrained.  I imagine there were very sound reasons they did not go to market with the iPhone 5, but I can promise you Microsoft, Nokia, HP, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and Google are more than grateful only 4 milion iPhone 4Ss were sold this past weekend….

 

Hindsight assisted blogosphere banter mocking those of us who consider the iPhone 4S short of what the 5th iPhone should have been is getting tiresome, quickly.  Pre-order records be damned, I think there a handful of reasons why the success of this iPhone release won’t resonate as long as the “I told you so” chorus would have us believe:

1. 3.5 inches of screen real estate once felt best in class.  It no longer does and without post zoom text reflow in the browser it borderline sucks.

2. Siri seems promising, but so did Facetime.

3.  The A5 dual core processor will likely make much more of a difference on the 4s than dual core processors are making or will make on current and future Android devices, but it’s still a table stakes spec at this point?

4. We saw this design 2 months before it was released in June of LAST YEAR!  It’s still beautiful, but in smartphone years it’s gaining wrinkles, rapidly.

5.  9.3 mm no longer feels as thin as it once did, especially relative to the iPad 2 at 8.8 mm, and I know I’m not alone when I confess to desperately wanting a 5th iPhone that closely approximated the thinness and design of the iPad 2.

Like so many other 3G iPhone users, I don’t know what to think of what appears to be a poor signal issue. However, I haven’t actually experienced poor reception either on a call or using data. This picture couldn’t capture it any better I think:

In utter disbelief that I would get a speed test result like this even with 5 full bars, I reverted to the old school speed test site http://www.dslreports.com/mspeed and got a more believable result:
3 minutes apart with the same signal displayed?  WTH?  Two more results on http://i.dslr.net/tinyspeedtest.html were in the 750 kbps and 850kbps ranges, while a second test on mspeed yielded a result in the low 200s.  
Same test tonight with cache cleared and the same apparent poor signal yielded these results:  439 kbps on tinyspeed and 793 on mspeed!?  Cleared cache and then mspeed hit freaking 1165!?  One more cache clearance and another round on tiny yielded a result of 709 kbps.  Again all of this with half of one bar (if that).  
I’ll follow these instructions to see if an improvement occurs in the device’s perception of reception if nothing else, but man this is crazy huh?  I will say that in the lead up to the iPhone 3G launch I was seeing pretty wild swings on the Tilt during mspeed tests, so maybe this is an AT&T issue? But I never saw less than half a bar when the swings occured so, somehow I just doubt it, and if the first software update from Cupertino doesn’t fix it then what?

There is an AT&T store in the same strip mall I get my hair cut.  So Thursday afternoon post buzz cut, I dropped in hoping ridiculously that a magical shipment of new iPhones might have immediately preceded my entrance.  Thus, I could do the deed and sneak out of there without sacrificing the remainder of my evening.  Alas, all they had were a few on display, and I finally held a black one in my hand (ah yeah).  In an instant, my discipline vanished.  

I had earlier checked iPhone 3G availability at my local Apple stores (ATL), and only one as of that morning still had any.  In fact they had all 3 models: 8G black, 16G black, and 16G white.    I knew 16G was a necessity, but white or black was the real question?  I own (or I should say my wife now owns) a white Macbook, so going in I’m not averse to the white, and due to the fingerprint/scratch factor being less a visible issue on the white in theory, I’m at this point actually leaning white.

I raced from the Cumberland Mall area of Atlanta to Lenox Mall in 15 minutes flat as miraculously traffic was breezy smack dab in the middle of rush hour.  I walked briskly to the Apple store stupidly not expecting to see a line, and when the harsh reality met my eyes, I humbly took my spot at the end of a 30 person iPhone lust train.   Almost immediately a friendly Apple employee warns me they can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get one based on the number of phones people in front of me activate.  I assure him I’m willing to take the risk, and begin what I hope to be the last session of email triage I ever perform on my AT&T Tilt.  Shortly thereafter the store manager informs us that only 16G whites are still to be had.  Relieved, I know that fate has made my choice for me….
90 minutes later I get my one on one purchasing experience (transaction ironically executed via Symbol PDA running WindowsCE), and in 5 more minutes I’m out the door with new white precious.  
In the 72 hours that have followed I’ve enjoyed the fantastic new form factor (plastic, tapered back feels like buttah), flawless OTA Exchange sync (though push sucks battery like a utility meant to suck battery), brilliant internet, better than average applications, decent call quality, less than decent battery life, and endless second guessing of my decision to go with white.  The contrast between the black front and the white back, especially relative to the perfect color symmetry of the black model, has gnawed at me mercilessly.
So, I broke down and called the Apple store I purchased from, and asked what my options were. Could I simply exchange it upon next availability of black, or would I have to return it and then suffer my way through line again?  The former was thankfully the answer I received, but we’ll see how it plays out……….By the way the full erase on the new 2.0 firmware must be the real deal as it is took every bit of the 2 hours it warned me it would take when I hesitatingly touched the confirmation button.  
A follow up back for black post is I pray imminent….

Apple’s acquisition of P.A. Semi Conductors had the MacBreak Weekly crew people guessing they intend to use these PowerPC based processors in the 3rd or 4th generation of the iPhone, or maybe the 1st version of a handheld Mac.  However, I’m halfway wondering if we’ll see this processor in the 2G/3G iPhone?  

David Ciccone reminded me in his latest Mobility Today podcast of how adamant Steve Jobs had been post 1G/2G release, that from a battery life perspective relative to the mobile device processors available, a HSDPA packing iPhone simply wouldn’t make sense.  Dave also then surmised that something “has to have changed” on this front since all indications point to a 3G iPhone’s release in the next few months.  

How are we to know Apple didn’t guess long before 6/29/2007 that improvements to the Samsung processor in the current iPhone weren’t going to get them there?  How are we to know they haven’t been working with P.A. Semiconductors as a customer all along and were so impressed by their engineering talent they bought it? 

Engadget recently reported the 3G iPhone is already in testing and “only slightly thicker” than the current gen model and will not only have a 3G radio, but also GPS.  That radio combo is a recipe for pitiful battery life unless you also pack in a thick battery, and that doesn’t sound like the strategy Apple took or would take (as they seem to like their designs thin you know).  

I think Ciccone was dead on and I can’t wait to see if we’re right.  However, even if we are right, and the 3G iPhone has fantastic battery life, and even with Exchange Active Sync embedded in the 2G OS, as R.I.M.’s co-CEO Mike Lazaridus recently opined, typing on glass still sucks.

And I cannot lie….. When it comes to how my eye finds reading on the iPhone, I now can’t go back to the itty bitty fonts found on most other smartphones, except mine is no longer technically a smartphone since I ran the 1.1.2 update. The fonts still rock regardless….