iPhone 5 to Roam the World

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Rumors swirled earlier this week that the iPhone 5, a forthcoming iPhone revision that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is expected to announce this summer, will contain a dual-mode chip to let a single hardware version support both CDMA and GSM radio technologies from the get-go:

As Bloomberg reports, "Apple is also working on a so-called dual-mode phone, two people said."

This means the iPhone 5 would file as a so-called world phone. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the recently released Verizon iPhone sports Qualcomm's MDM6600 dual-mode baseband chip that supports both CDMA and GSM cellular networks.

According to iFixIt teardown experts, this is exactly the same piece of silicon powering the world-enabled Droid Pro. The chip supports both EV-DO technology that Verizon Wireless and some other CDMA carriers use and high-speed HSPA+ connectivity on GSM networks, with data rates up to 14.4Mbps.

Bloomberg is taking those findings as the basis for their report, which goes on to specify that iPhone 5 could be used in most parts of the world: "This device would be able to work with the world's two main wireless standards -- the global system for mobile communications, used by AT&T and overseas carriers including Vodafone Group Plc, and code division multiple access, used by Verizon Wireless. It is not known whether Apple intended to include this capability in the cheaper iPhone."

Apple has intentionally disabled GSM functionality on this chip in the Verizon version of the handset, presumably to limit its functionality just to the carrier's CDMA network. But that Apple used a new dual-mode chip in the device signifies that the next iPhone will probably enable dual-mode functionality, making the iPhone for the first time ever a true world phone.

And as we noted in our earlier report, the iPhone 5 could also feature handy Universal SIM technology. It should let you easily switch carriers and set up the phone yourself through a built-in "settings" app and by downloading appropriate carrier settings from the App Store. Gigaom reported last October that Apple was working with Gemalto on such a technology: "Sources inside European carriers have reported that Apple has been working with SIM-card manufacturer Gemalto to create a special SIM card that would allow consumers in Europe to buy a phone via the Web or at the Apple Store and get the phones working using Apple's App Store."

Reportedly, unhappy carriers freaked out that Apple would cut them out of the equation and claim total control over their customers. According to Financial Times, European carriers especially panicked because their customers tend to purchase handsets separately from service plans. Therefore, a phone that would make switching between carriers easy could give customers the freedom to choose their wireless operator and switch anytime.

Allegedly, European carriers then threatened Apple to stop offering subsidies for the iPhone if the company was to move forward with those plans.

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  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2011, at 6:50 PM, yanassi wrote:

    excellent. if apple sells the phone at a discount price, a large market of cell users can and will buy, let the carriers pay a portion of the income created from a new user to apple. right now, income is coming from verizon and at&t, imagine it coming from every carrier.

    we users would love the freedom of not being so locked into any one company. let the companies compete with better services to get a new user. let them earn us users, not lock us.

    imagine buying a radio from a radio station that could only broadcast that station. that is what we've been through with the cellular carriers.

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