updated 11:48 am EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
Would extend iPhone's 'world phone' status
The next-generation iPhone will likely not only support standard 3G and 4G networks, but also the China Mobile version of 3G, TD-SCDMA, says Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu. Based on "supply chain work" by his firm, Wu suggests that the next iPhone will expand on the world phone status of the iPhone 4S by adding both LTE 4G and TD-SCDMA. China Mobile is the only carrier in the world to use TD-SCDMA, something that has so far interfered with iPhone compatibility.
Although China Mobile has been widely expected to support the upcoming iPhone, reports have so far indicated that it would be through the company's new TD-LTE network. Enabling 3G, though, would give subscribers something to fall back on when 4G isn't available. People with unlocked iPhones are already using them on Mobile's network unofficially, but only have access to 2G data at best. "Since carriers have yet to obtain 4G licenses and there is testing ahead, we believe that widespread adoption for 4G in China will likely be 2-3 years out meaning strong 3G support is critical," Wu observes.
Beyond extended cellular support, supplier sources are said to back up the notions of a new form factor and a larger screen. Unmentioned though is a smaller dock connector. Wu does expect iPhone shipments to slump in the June and September quarters, though, as suppliers build fewer 4 and 4S models during the transition to new hardware. The analyst's estimates for the quarters are 27 million and 25 million units, respectively, versus consensus figures nearer to 30 million each.