By Greg Mills
While everyone knew the Verizon iPhone was going to have a different radio chip than the AT&T iPhone, the new dual band chip set they used wasn't expected until the iPhone 5 by most observers.
The Qualcomm MD6600dual band chips were available and apparently Apple got a good enough deal on them to use in the new Verizon iPhone. That chip has GPS built in, which reduces the cost and complications for including location services.
It appears likely to me that the new iPhone 4.5 will also run on the AT&T network, but not the other way around. The SIM card in the dual band phone is done away with and must be held in ROM or some other method of electronic serial number identification baked in silicon. It will be interesting to see what all this means from a marketing standpoint.
SInce Apple has gone to the new chip that explains what the game plan is. Universal radio chips mean universal iPhones and Universal iPad 2. While Apple and the carriers may lock the new iPhones, as they do now, there must be a way Apple or someone else could unlock them without screwing up the iOS and making the iPhone a jailbroken device.
In some corners of the world locking phones is not as well accepted as in the United States. If Apple is planning to sell one model of the iPhone everywhere, this makes perfect sense.The rational on locking is that when you plunk down $200 for a new iPhone that is only one-third of the actual price. The cell phone company ponies up the rest and expects to get it back over the two-year contract period. If you could simply switch carriers any time you wanted to, it would force the companies to charge full price for your phone and forget trying to lock you in to a contract.
It is unknown at this time when the next generation G4 iPhone will be launched. Frankly, while Apple is ahead of the curve most of the time, the first iPhone ran on the AT&T Edge network (very slooooow) instead of the faster G3 network as Apple rightly figured the G3 network wasn't ready at that time. This is similar to what is going on now; G4 is just being rolled out and isn't even close to offering full coverage on any network.
I tested a Clear 4G network hot spot device and found that coverage was so spotty, users would almost always revert to the slower Sprint 3G network. Not a good situation and not conducive to happy customers having to pay two companies for service on one device.
I predict the iPhone 5 will also be 3G and, by iPhone 6 perhaps, the cell networks will allow the speedy G4 phones to work in enough places to matter. The radio-equipped iPads will also be dual band so they will likely run on any network in the US. If Apple sells iPads through AT&T and Verizon with chipsets locked the carrier, the cost for getting an iPad will drop to the $200 range with a two-year contract for service. If the monthly rate for service included both radio internet service and hardware, the price might go up. I suspect a lot of people would buy the iPad that way anticipating they would want radio connect-ability anyway.
A lot of people don't know that in addition to the radio chips in the more expensive radio-equipped iPads you also get the GPS chips that work great for navigation. The Wi-Fi only iPad doesn't do GPS since it doesn't have the chip set for it.
My iPad 1 runs on AT&T when it can't hook up to Wi-Fi and it seems to get a better connection than the iPhone most of the time in AT&T mode. I have the $30-a-month, unlimited iPad deal with AT&T. When the dual band iPad 2 comes out it will be cool to have the networks at our mercy for providing service.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at gregmills.mac.)