To do business with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , companies typically must swear a blood oath of secrecy, with the penalties ranging from losing the relationship to as high as sacrificing first-born offspring.
AT&T (NYSE: T ) was the first domestic iPhone partner, and enjoyed over three years of exclusivity. Archrival Verizon (Nasdaq: VZ ) joined the party early last year. These two largest domestic wireless carriers are in the process of rolling out their 4G LTE networks, but Verizon is leading the pack.
Currently, Big Red's LTE covers 196 cities and over 200 million Americans and intends on doubling its coverage by year's end to "at least 400 markets across the country," according to CTO David Small. In contrast, Ma Bell calls its HSPA+ network "4G," which is a hot debate in itself but has some credibility (I still consider it a marketing stretch).
Certain flavors of HSPA+, specifically DC-HSPA+ (which isn't available yet) could be considered 4G in terms of throughput, but I would still consider current HSPA+ networks as 3G in terms of speed.
That may be partially why AT&T has been a little slower to roll out its LTE network -- which is indisputably 4G -- since in its mind it already has a "4G" network. As of right now, AT&T's LTE network covers just 28 markets and roughly 74 million Americans. That means Verizon's LTE currently covers about two and a half times as many people.
There's two primary strategic areas where Verizon is being particularly aggressive: Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android and 4G LTE, and has now told the Wall Street Journal that throughout the rest of the year, you can expect its lineup of new smartphones to be exclusively LTE devices. That's an important implication, since it more or less confirms that Apple's sixth-generation iPhone that's due out this year will feature 4G LTE, just like the new iPad does.
While LTE is already widely expected in the next iPhone, a little indirect confirmation from a carrier partner sure helps its case. When asked directly, a Verizon spokeswoman deflected the question as expected, saying that product announcements are Apple's department.
The real question will be how the next iPhone handles battery life. While those blazing fast Android 4.0 Galaxy Nexus smartphones scream with LTE speed, they do so at the expense of battery life. It's arguably the biggest drawback to the technology.
On the other hand, Apple's new LTE iPad has kept the same whopping 10-hour battery life. How? Apple quietly packed 70% more battery capacity into the device to serve up juice for its LTE, Retina Display, and A5X processor. If Apple applies the same battery technology to an LTE iPhone, that could prove a major advantage over rival Android LTE devices.
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