updated 02:00 pm EDT, Tue August 16, 2011
Apple may hint at LTE-aware iPhone or iPad
(Update: photo pulled at request of source) An unusual sighting hints that Apple is gearing up for some kind of LTE-based initiative. AT&T is reportedly setting up 4G networking hardware in Apple stores, including at least one "major" shop. The hardware seen by an Engadget contact taps into the 700MHz and 1,700MHz bands specific to AT&T's coming and planned LTE service.
The equipment's nature and purpose isn't clear. Its size suggests it may be fixed wireless equipment to bring in 4G data, although why it would be necessary isn't known. Every Apple store already has wired Internet access. The components may instead be to repeat or simulate 4G access inside the shops.
If the latter, it would point to a 4G product launch from Apple. The iPhone isn't expected to adopt LTE in 2011 as current hardware would require too many sacrifices; modern LTE chipsets often add bulk by sitting separate from 3G and consume large amounts of battery life. A mid-cycle iPad 2 update is more plausible but also unlikely, and notebooks have been updated recently enough that internal 4G is doubtful.
A chance exists that the LTE hardware is there for HSPA+ 3G with LTE just as a futureproofing step, in which case iPhones are more likely to get the faster networking.
Regardless of the LTE plans, Apple is said to be bulking up its sales staff by 30 percent independently of the holiday sales spike. The hiring is most likely to brace for the next iPhone but could be a general attempt to accommodate ever rising retail foot traffic.
Update: The story may have gained credence after a request by the source to have the images removed.