One slight surprise in this morning’s Verizon-iPhone announcement is that the first generation of phones will use Verizon’s 3G network.If you want to use the faster 4G LTE network that Verizon unveiled in December, you’ll have to buy an Android phone.
- Design. According to Apple’s Tim Cook, the first generation of LTE chipsets would have forced Apple to make “design compromises” that Apple wouldn’t make. That could mean that they wouldn’t fit inside the current iPhone 4 chassis, or that they drain battery life more quickly than Apple could accept.
- Demand. Cook also said that customers want the Verizon iPhone now. Figure that Apple knows it can sell a bunch of phones now to early adopters and dissatisfied AT&T customers, and then introduce an LTE iPhone in a year (or so) and pick off a bunch of new users. This is the playbook Apple followed with the first iPhone, which used AT&T’s slow EDGE network. It sold about six million over five quarters. A year later, Apple introduced the 3G version and sold six million in a quarter.
- LTE is new. Although the companies didn’t say so, Verizon’s LTE network is new and may not have been able to handle the massive influx of iPhone users downloading apps and videos.
- Limited coverage area. Also left unsaid, Verizon’s LTE service is available in only 38 markets and a few major airports, while its 3G is available almost everywhere. If Apple had rushed to build an LTE version, customers outside these markets might have been disappointed when they could only get the slower 3G data service.
By 2013, Verizon says LTE will be available everywhere 3G is available today. It would be shocking if there’s not a 4G LTE iPhone by that time.
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