iPhone 5 Initial Impressions & Implications

iPhone 5All indications are that The iPhone 5, announced today, will continue to expand Apple’s hold on the market through improved and expanded features.  The new iPhone is faster, has a bigger screen and iOS 6 brings a host of useful features along for the ride.  Because of some of these improvements and changes, this release will require some consideration and planning from those who need to support them.

Get cracking! The device lands in nine days.

How Many Models Are There?

There are three models of iPhone 5.  According to Apple’s iPhone 5 Tech Specs page, the model numbers are A1428 and A1429.  Review of the Tech Specs page, Apple’s Identifying iPhone models knowledge base article and Apple’s LTE availability page makes it clear that model A1429 will have two variants – “Model A1429 (CDMA model)” and “Model A1429 (GSM model)”.  Why is this a consideration? Aside from the connectivity concerns discussed below, more models mean more .ipsw files (iOS images – for lack of a better term) to keep track of.

Which Networks Can I Use?

Closely related to the model issue is that of which carriers each model can connect to.  This is a huge concern for world travelers.

Model A1428 is GSM-only and equipped with an LTE radio operating on bands in use by AT&T in the United States and Puerto Rico*, Bell, Rogers and Telus in Canada and no one else outside North America.  This is clearly an “AT&T model”.

Model A1429 (CDMA model) includes GSM support (presumably for roaming) and will be equipped with a radio that can communicate on LTE bands used in Angola, Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Namibia, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.  Note that not all of these countries appear on the LTE Support list.  This model seems to be the one to have for world travelers as it supports the greatest number wireless standards, frequencies and networks.

Model A1429 (GSM model) of course lacks CDMA support and will support LTE bands used in the same places listed for the CDMA model above with the exception of the United States.  This seems to be the “Whole World Except the United States” model, although it could presumably roam on U.S. 3G and lower networks and/or take a U.S. GSM SIM card if unlocked.

An unlocked iPhone 5 Model A1429 (CDMA model) is my pick for the most versatile device for world travelers.  Unfortunately, finding an unlocked unit may prove very difficult.  It seems that this model will only be available in the United States and Japan.  Verizon is not known to willingly unlock devices, and only those non-Japanese with an alien registration card and a Japanese bank account can buy mobile phones in Japan.  Help me Sprint, you’re my only hope?

There’s nothing but good news when it comes to Wi-Fi.  All models support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n wireless networks.

I don’t know why Apple went back to network-specific models, but I suspect LTE radios had something to do with it.  There are a large number of bands in use all over the world.  The only difference I can see between the specs of models A1428 and A1429 (GSM model) is the LTE bands supported by each device.  Of course it could have been pressure from the carriers, but you and I are unlikely to ever know for sure.

iOS 6 Feature Availability

Some advanced Maps and Siri features won’t be available in all of the countries getting the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21st.  Consult Apple’s iOS 6 Feature Availability list for details.

Cables and Adapters

If you haven’t heard by now, the iPhone 5 has a new port.  The 30-pin dock connector is gone, replaced by the much smaller interface with a more marketable name – Lightning!  Be prepared to stock up on new cables, nubby adapters and adapters with cables.

Well, that’s all I’ve got until I actually get a unit into my hands.  As usual, I hope this is helpful.

*I know Puerto Rico is part of the United States, however telecommunications providers don’t seem to know that.

4 responses

  1. “An unlocked iPhone 5 Model A1429 (CDMA model) is my pick for the most versatile device for world travelers.”

    Please explain this comment. If you’re a world traveller and want to optimize for global versatility and utility, why would you pick a CDMA model, rather than a GSM model?

    Last I checked, CDMA (and CDMA2000) is mostly used in North America and parts of Asia. If you take a CDMA-only phone to a country where there is no CDMA signal, then … no LTE either. Right?

    What am I missing?

  2. The CDMA model also has a GSM radio for roaming. It supports more LTE bands for greater 4G compatibility. Anecdotal reports from friends and colleagues say that Verizon has been good about doing SIM unlocks on the iPhone 4S, since they don’t use SIM cards for their network. This would allow one to use a local SIM when traveling abroad.

    If you’re lucky enough to be grandfathered in to an unlimited international plan with Verizon, you might not bother with SIM cards. I’m writing this reply on my Verizon iPhone 4S in Holland, connected to Vodafone NL’s GSM 3G network via Verizon international roaming.

    One additional drawback to the CDMA model, at least while on a CDMA network, is that you still can’t talk and use data simultaneously. I hope this helps.

  3. helllo

    just want to ask you if it is possible to use iphone 5 cdma model from japanese carrier AU KDDI here in the philippines tnx . .

  4. I do not know much about this carrier, but my cursory research shows that au by KDDI is a CDMA carrier. I also found unconfirmed notes that KDDI’s CDMA frequency is slightly different from CDMA frequencies used in other countries. It is also important to note that cellular services in Japan cannot be purchased by foreigners (registered aliens excepted), but devices and SIM cards are available for rent from many vendors.

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