Verizon iPhone May Have a Dual Chip, but It's No Globetrotter
The Qualcomm processor found in the Verizon iPhone 4 supports both CDMA and HSPA+, which is compatible with the UMTS/GSM network used by AT&T. However, "The CDMA iPhone as it stands only works on the dual-band CDMA network that's prevalent in North America," said iSuppli's Wayne Lam. "To make this a true world phone, Apple would have to rejigger the radio section of this design."
Feb 8, 2011 11:59 AM PT
Apple has made several changes to the CDMA iPhone 4 that Verizon Wireless will launch on its network Thursday.
These include a new antenna and a new CDMA/GSM baseband processor.
The changes make for an improved iPhone 4 and pave the way for Apple to produce future versions of the device more economically, according to tech specialists who tore down the CDMA iPhone 4.
Neither Apple nor Verizon responded to requests for comment by press time.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Apple made changes to the antenna for the CDMA iPhone 4, a move that may help it avoid the reception problems that have plagued the model of that device available from AT&T.
The reception problems led to a public relations nightmare, and Apple ended up spending millions of dollars providing iPhone 4 owners with free cases for their devices.
"There's an antenna cable running along the bottom side which appears to be a remedy to the antenna issue Apple had before," Chris Johncke, owner of iFixYouri, told MacNewsWorld. His company listed the differences between the Verizon iPhone 4 and the AT&T version on its website.
"I think Apple has learned a lesson," Wayne Lam, a senior analyst at IHS iSuppli, which tore down the Verizon iPhone 4, told MacNewsWorld.
While the antenna for the original iPhone 4 has "a very elegant design," it was plagued by reception problems because Apple didn't isolate the various sections, Lam said. When users held the frame, which contained the antenna, their hands essentially short-circuited the antenna, attenuating the signal.
That problem can be overcome by better insulating the antenna and components, which Apple has done in the CDMA iPhone 4, Lam pointed out.
Further, Apple has also changed the segmentation of the antenna, Lam said. "The original iPhone 4 had three segments on the main superstructure; the Verizon iPhone 4 now has four, so Apple segmented the bottom antenna from the top antenna," he elaborated.
The bottom antenna, where the home button and speaker and mic are, is the iPhone 4's primary cellular send and receive antenna, Lam stated. The top antenna is a combination that handles Bluetooth and wireless LANs, among other things.
Looking to the Future
Apple also changed the baseband processor chip from the Infineon PMB9801 it had used in UMTS/GSM versions of the iPhone to a Qualcomm MDM6600, IHS iSuppli found.
The Qualcomm processor supports both CDMA and HSPA+, which is compatible with the UMTS/GSM network used by AT&T, IHS iSuppli's Lam said. This paves the way for the future, he suggested.
"Apple's put at the core of the design a common processor that works on both networks, so in the future, there's less work for it to redesign the device for AT&T," Lam elaborated. "It's not just a matter of redesigning the iPhone for the CDMA network; Apple's thinking ahead to source a part that works on both CDMA and UMTS/GSM networks."
This is in line with Apple's approach to making changes, Lam pointed out.
"Apple's very methodical with its design changes," he stated. "So we can likely expect to see the next iteration of the iPhone, which we expect in June, to have that baseband with a different front end that's compatible with the UMTS/GSM network."
However, using the Qualcomm processor doesn't mean Apple's planning to make the iPhone a world phone.
"The CDMA iPhone as it stands only works on the dual-band CDMA network that's prevalent in North America," Lam explained. "To make this a true world phone, Apple would have to rejigger the radio section of this design."
Cupertino also changed the phone's vibration unit, possibly to fend off competition from the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, iFixYouri's Johncke suggested.
"The Samsung Galaxy S has got a real smooth vibrate, and the new iPhone now has that kind of smooth vibrate feel instead of the old vibrate that would shake the entire phone," Johncke stated.
"This is a major change because Apple had to redesign the whole board layout for it," Johncke pointed out. Apple has relocated the vibration device from the top right position by the headphone jack to the bottom left, he elaborated.
Other changes Apple has made in the CDMA iPhone 4 include changes to the speaker housing, the cable protector, and the cover for the front-facing camera.
"Apple's definitely made it a lot more difficult to reassemble the CDMA iPhone 4," Johncke said. "They have more cable covers, more cable connectors, lots of different tiny screws, and they put pentalobular screws on the bottom and sealed them with Loc-Tite."