As a result of the partnership with wireless provider, Verizon, Apple has been forced to release two different versions of the iPhone 4 compatible initially with the GSM AT&T network and then latterly with the CDMA network of Verizon. While this doesn’t affect users who are signed to either network in the USA, it becomes an issue when they are traveling out of the States to other countries where the networks may not be compatible with the chipset in their device. For example, AT&T customers traveling to CDMA dominant India may find it rather difficult to get good coverage.
Apple could alleviate this problem by releasing a ‘world iPhone’, employing a hybrid GSM / CDMA chipset. Furthermore, a hybrid chipset could allow consumers to more easily transfer between major USA networks while retaining their handset, should the need arise. And this hybrid device may be exactly what the company is working on.
A recent report on the blog of an Italian hacker named Zibri has suggested that the next generation of iPhone and iPad will utilize Qualcomm as a baseband provider for the devices (via AppleInsider). This means that an upcoming device will be utilizing CDMA networks. The caveat to this report is that the evidence was isolated from the latest version of iTunes and may simply refer to the upcoming Verizon iPhone, which is rumored to use Qualcomm chips to allow compatibility with the CDMA network.
The key issue is that Qualcomm has also been rumored to be working on dual CDMA / GSM chipsets for a while. If Apple are switching to Qualcomm chips (instead of Infineon) for the Verizon iPhone then they may use Qualcomm as the radio provider for the iPhone 5 and iPad 2, resulting in devices that are compatible with most major networks the world over. Engadget apparently also has sources which suggest the same thing, which indicates that evidence for such a design is growing. Combine this with the fact that Qualcomm could produce hybrid chips with compatibility for up to ten different radio frequencies (compared to the current iPhone design which offers five) and you also bring T-Mobile USA into the mix, giving Apple the opportunity to supply the iPhone to almost every network provider in the world.
While this isn’t a new issue or discussion, it’s worth highlighting once again given the appearance of this recent evidence. A world iPhone would be a fantastic step forward and, with the added pressure on networks to drop ridiculous roaming charges, users may finally be able to use their own smartphones anywhere in the world without having to sell their grandmother to pay the phone bill.