updated 08:57 pm EDT, Thu September 13, 2012
AT&T confirms simultaneous voice, data
Verizon customers purchasing Apple's new iPhone 5 will find that their new smartphones are unable to access Verizon's data network at the same time as they are placing calls. A Verizon representative has confirmed to The Verge that the iPhone 5 will not be able to support simultaneous voice and data connections. Customers buying iPhones for use on Sprint's network may find themselves in the same situation, though Sprint has yet to comment on the matter.
A Verizon spokesperson commented that "the iPhone 5 was designed to allow customers to place a voice call on the Verizon Wireless network, while letting customers access the Internet over the Wi-Fi."
As Apple revealed yesterday, the iPhone 5 will come in three non-cross-compatible versions: one CDMA model and two GSM models. Verizon and Sprint will carry the CDMA model, so it is possible that the Sprint version will not be able to do simultaneous voice and data either.
AT&T has already confirmed that its version will support simultaneous voice and data on both HSPA+ and LTE. The AT&T iPhone 5, however, will not support LTE speeds while on a call.
Observers have pointed out -- and Electronista has verified -- that some other Android-powered LTE smartphones, such as Motorola's new RAZR M, are able to access wireless data while making a call. This has led to unconfirmed speculation putting the blame for the Verizon/Sprint model's deficiency on Apple's choice of a dynamic antenna, which automatically switches antenna connections to use the best oriented antenna for a signal.
Typically, 4G LTE devices use two radios, one for voice on CDMA and another for 4G LTE data. Those blaming the dynamic antenna posit that the iPhone 5 uses both antennae to get the best signal possible and thus is unable to use one or the other for voice or data as needed. Others point to Apple's choice of a Qualcomm single-chip implementation.
In a statement to The New York Times, an Apple spokesperson noted that "iPhone 5 supports simultaneous voice and data on GSM-based 3G and LTE networks. It is not yet possible to do simultaneous voice and data on networks that use CDMA for voice and LTE for data in a single radio design."
The issue may prove a point of contention between the carriers as they try to attract customers, and it could lead to the resurrection of some older ad campaigns. Early last year, as Verizon and AT&T competed, AT&T rolled out a series of commercials touting its network's support for simultaneous "talk and surf," and belittling Verizon's inability to do the same. Ultimately, the issue may prove inconsequential. Verizon's iPhone 5 can still pull data over a Wi-Fi connection, and 4G LTE technology is slated to evolve over the next two years to support voice calls as well, rendering the extra antenna unnecessary.