Chinese Carrier Says iPhone 5 Will Have 4G, Experts Say Otherwise

Apple’s iPhone customers have long wondered: will the iPhone 5 have 4G?

A Chinese mobile carrier may have inadvertently let the cat out of the bag.

China Unicom Deputy Director Huang Wenliang claimed in a slideshow presentation given at Macworld Beijing that the iPhone 5 would use the 21Mbps HSPA+ data network that China Unicom has evolutionarily used since 2010.

Apple is expected to improve 3G speeds on GSM networks for its next iPhone regardless of China Unicom's plans. AT&T and major Canadian and European carriers already have the HSPA+ protocol on their networks.

HSPA+ would triple the iPhone 4‘s current 7.2Mbps speed and put it in the same league with other speedy high-end smartphones, such as the Galaxy S II.

If correct, it would help soothe concerns that Apple will not have LTE-based 4G in the near term; in real-world conditions, current HSPA+ 3G is only sometimes slower than LTE.

CDMA iPhones on Sprint and Verizon would not receive any speed improvements, because virtually no carriers have progressed past the older EVDO Rev A standard for 3G.

Despite clamors for a 4G-equipped iPhone 5, technology experts are skeptical.

“Whenever you hear word that a phone has “4G” connectivity – it would be best to do more research on the handset and see whether it is just “marketing 4G” being bandied about, or the real deal,” said Ubergizmo’s Edwin Kee. “Maybe those of us who’re lusting after the new smartphone will keep our fingers crossed this time around. At least the folks in China are assured of getting one.”

“There's one thing I'm pretty sure of: the iPhone 5, or whatever it will be called, won't have 4G LTE. Now, AT&T is going to call it 4G, just you wait. But it won't have LTE,” said PC Mag’s Sascha Segan.

“Apple has always prioritized slim elegance over network speed, and the company is definitely concerned about battery life. Sticking with a high-speed HSPA network rather than nascent LTE lets Apple keep its phone slender and running all day,” Segan added.