Following the announcement of the ‘still 3G’ iPhone 4S at the Apple media event yesterday, eyes immediately turn to the iPhone 5 for those users who are looking for a 4G experience from Apple. Sadly, and perhaps not unexpectedly, it looks like Apple won’t be releasing a 4G LTE iPhone until at least 2012. At least, that is the opinion of Anandtech (via MacRumors) who have suggested that development of 28nm LTE chips, thought to be required for inclusion in the iPhone, won’t be available until Q2 2012, and therefore in an iPhone until Q3 2012.
Depending upon how you define 4G handsets, the iPhone 4S could already fit the bill. Apple announced yesterday that they had redesigned the antenna array and implemented intelligent antenna switching meaning that the new iPhone could potentially hit 14.4 Mbps, essentially hitting the speed that some carriers are posting as 4G. This compares with 7.2 Mbps in the iPhone 4.
However, while many had been expecting a redesigned form factor in the new iPhone, don’t be too quick to expect a complete redesign in the iPhone 5. Given the significant battery drain observed with current LTE chips, even with 28nm chip processes, a 4G iPhone will still require a high capacity battery to maintain a decent battery life. The iPhone 4 was specifically designed to offer a higher internal volume than the iPhone 3G and 3GS and reverting to a teardrop or tapered design would reduce the available volume for the battery and all the other internal components.
I would therefore suggest that it’s not out of the realms of possibility that Apple could retain essentially the same design of the iPhone for one more generation after this one.