Cellular Connectivity: LTE Expected

The iPhone has always used separate applications and baseband processors. The next model is not expected to be any different. The big addition with the upcoming iPhone will be a massive and much needed improvement in cellular connectivity. Put simply, the addition of both support for LTE in the Americas and perhaps a few other international markets, and TD-SCDMA support for China. Support for LTE is simply requisite for a high end smartphone at this point, and inclusion of TD-SCDMA is likewise requisite for any further growth in China.

The commercial availability of Qualcomm's second generation Gobi modems and transceivers will make this possible without the design caveats posed by the previous generation of LTE basebands. Specifically, caveats such the lack of a built in codec for voice, requiring the so-called Qualcomm SoC fusion scenario that required MDM9x00 to ship in conjunction with a Qualcomm SoC to enable voice (whereas MDM9x15 is natively voice enabled). That's to say nothing of power draw which improved over time for MDM9x00 with software improvements (such as inclusion of more DRX features), but still precluded inclusion in an iPhone without a battery penalty. There's a reason you see MDM9x00 in the iPad 3 with WiFi but not in the iPhone 4S, even though it was available for that product's release.

The part we've fingered for baseband in the next iPhone is Qualcomm's MDM9x15 platform, which is a 28nm TSMC device that includes support for Category 3 LTE TDD and FDD, up to Release 8 42 Mbps DC-HSPA+, GSM/EDGE, TD-SCDMA, and CDMA2000 1x, 1xAdvanced, and EVDO on the MDM9615 variant. This is the same IP block as what is already inside shipping MSM8960 SoCs and devices today, where we've seen great battery life and LTE performance. There's one further improvement as well which MDM9615 hopefully will have over the current MSM8960 implementation, and that's the inclusion of a new 28nm RF (as opposed to logic) transceiver named WTR1605, instead of the 65nm RTR8600. This new transceiver also includes even more ports (7 instead of 5 on RTR8600) which means we will see likely more 3G or 4G LTE bands supported in this upcoming device. Even without that improvement we'll see inclusion of LTE without any caveats.

Because 2x2 MIMO is mandatory for LTE Category 2 and above (and 2 receive diversity mandatory for all LTE categories), you can see how that top bottom RF window and antenna split we touched on earlier makes even more sense. Again, this isn't a big leap from the iPhone 4S which already features both receive and transmit diversity split between top and bottom antennas, but just further fits into the LTE iPhone puzzle.

A small note under the cellular category is that this will also likely continue to be where GNSS (GPS and GLONASS) resides, something the CDMA iPhone 4 and 4S both already have courtesy the MDM66x0 baseband inside. MDM9x15 bumps this slightly, from Qualcomm's GPSone with GLONASS generation 8 to 8A, though I'm not certain what all improvements come from that change in version.

The SoC NFC, Unlikely
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  • MatthiasP - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I'm missing some wild speculation about the camera. Reply
  • Alchemy69 - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    So, basically it will be a tweaked 4S with a case sufficiently different that everyone knows you have the new one. I find that all too believable. Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Bigger screen + LTE + higher clocks are a fairly significant set of changes. Reply
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Exactly!

    Apple will again be able to sell yet another generation iphone to its current iphone owners....so they can be the "first on the block". Seems kids just never grow up. It's still about having ice-cream and you don't. I'd like to know what the real difference is...other than fixing the flawed antenna and LTE. Oh! a means to get every Apple owner to buy new accessories to fit the new port connection.

    While I'll Never own an Apple product, I find Apple has been very savvy in getting the general consumer market to walk freely into Apples walled garden of control and zero options. When will the DOJ file against Apple for its Itunes requirement and its anti-competitive ways? The sheep number in the millions and I just keep watching from outside the walled garden.

    Interesting enough story. Since this is all based on conjecture.

    I find it interesting that Apples playbook seems to repeat itself, but hey their making billions on each incremental generation of one phone. Whats the saying...."A fool and his money.....?

    Best wishes,
    Reply
  • jrswizzle - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    Aside from your wild generalizations about Apple users, I find the hatred for iTunes amusing. You are by no means the only person to express a deep loathing for the program but what I can't seem to figure out is why?

    With the advent of iCloud, the only time I use iTunes is as a media player through my computer or to sync up my old iPod classic. What is so awful about Mac's default media player that it would warrant a DOJ filing? There are other media players out there for music on your iPhone: pandora, spotify just to name a few and I'd argue they'd probably save the avid music fan some dough.

    My only complaint with the program is its support for legacy devices which makes it a monster in terms of computer resources, but this is being rectified with the new update this fall (as they vastly reduce the iPod line imo).

    We get that you hate Apple and love your "open source" OSes. But those of us who prefer simplicity, ease of use and stability will continue to use Apple products. We don't need your pity or your baseless, and offensive, generalizations about our CHOICES.
    Reply
  • jrswizzle - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    As for the article, it makes perfect sense. Apple has never been one to add features for the sake of adding features. If it improves the overall user experience you can bet they'll include it. It's not about doing things that are new and different, its about doing things better. And of the features iOS devices have, I can only think of 1 Android does better (Google Now vs. Siri). Reply
  • Assimilator87 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I hope Apple surprises us and throws in a 32nm A5X. I'll be jumping ship to iOS when my Palm Pre 2 dies. I've used Android on my tablet and the much smaller game selection, on top of the fragmentation due to all the SoCs, makes it excruciating. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    It's bizarre that the people who go on about "sheep" behavior seem the most clueless about human psychology.

    As I have said before, the issue is not coolness, it is delight.

    - coolness is other directed. It was what other companies ship. It is about how OTHER people view you and your device. It is about having a few gimmicks you can show others so that they ooh and ahh.
    - what Apple ships is not coolness, it is DELIGHT. Delight is SELF-DIRECTED. It is about devices that bring you joy day after day, and who cares whether they demo well, or can be shown to others.

    Samsung, right now, is a company that cares a lot about coolness, and nothing about delight. That's why, to take a recent example, they ship a Note 10.1 with two flashy features you can show your friends --- pen, and the equivalent of MacOS 1.0's desk accessories, allowing you to open multiple apps at once --- but both these features actually perform horrendously. They do the cool job fine --- show them to your friends for a few minutes and they will be impressed --- but they do the delight job abysmally.

    And one of the ways that you engender delight is what Apple is doing here, constant refinement . When you buy your next phone, it feels familiar --- just better in every way.
    Reply
  • Tegeril - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    This, exactly. Reply
  • JoshAlfie - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    This is actually a very interesting analysis. Nice one. Reply

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