Is a dual CDMA/GSM iPhone 4S a good idea?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| June 11, 2011

If you’re the type of person to subscribe to all of the rumors and grumblings about the next iPhone, then you’ve probably already read that Apple is hard at work on a dual GSM/CDMA-based device and they plan on releasing it here pretty soon. At least by the end of 2011, anyway. This is the same device that’s been called the iPhone 5, but more recently it’s been tagged with the minor title update, the iPhone 4S. So if you’re someone who subscribes to all of these rumors and speculation, then by now you’ve probably already formed your own opinions about what the next version of Apple’s popular smartphone will feature, and more importantly, if it’s going to be a major upgrade or just a minor one while we wait for something better. If this latest rumor pans out, I think it’s the best bet for Apple.

It’s anyone’s guess at this point, except for those in the know at Apple (and some Verizon executives, incidentally enough), as to what features the new iPhone will bring to the table, but the growing consensus seems to be that the iPhone 4S is more than likely than the iPhone 5. In the iPhone 4S, there’s expected to be the inclusion of the A5 processor, the same one that’s found in the iPad 2. Additionally, it’s believed that there will be some improvements to the camera – both on the front and in the back. Whether or not the device will feature a slightly bigger screen is one of the hotly debated bullet points. There’s also the question regarding carrier choice, as at this point in time it’s really up to Apple who they want to launch their prodigal device.

So why would a dual GSM/CDMA-based device be a good idea for Apple? Well for one, it would save the Cupertino-based company money on manufacturing. Instead of having to create separate devices featuring the necessary technology for both CDMA and GSM in separate devices, they can just make sure that everything that’s needed for a functioning device on either network is in one, and make that. And, let’s face it, if any company out there is going to figure out how to make one device work with multiple networks, it would be Apple to do it.

As of right now, there’s a slight difference in the software that’s available on the AT&T iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4 that’s available on Verizon’s network. If Apple has indeed created a device that can work on both Verizon’s and AT&T’s network, then there’s the strong possibility that there will no longer be a difference in the software for that device, despite the network differences. That would mean that updates wouldn’t be staggered any longer, and subscribers on one network wouldn’t have to necessarily wait to get their hands on a feature or update. (It really isn’t a big issue as of right now and many owners probably don’t even realize this is the case, but it would still be something worth noting on Apple’s part at the announcement of the next iPhone.)

In the United States, we’ve got four major wireless carriers. Two are CDMA-based while two are GSM-based. Both of these networks on either technology use different bands, though, so it would be logical to assume that if Apple is indeed creating an iPhone 4S that features dual CDMA/GSM technology, that there’s a possibility that they are creating two of these dual devices. There are just as many rumors and reports suggesting that Apple is making an iPhone 4S for Sprint and T-Mobile, so it could be possible. It would be interesting to see how Apple would differentiate these devices cosmetically, too, so people would know just by looking at your device which network you may be on. If they would change their aesthetics at all, that is.

The only downfall I could see with a dual GSM/CDMA-based device is the price. After all, it’s more technology that Apple has to shove into that little frame, and that has to be made up for in some way or another. It would be a shame to make the customer pay extra for something that, more than likely, they will never use. But, what do you think of the GSM/CDMA-hypothesized iPhone 4S? Good idea or one that Apple shouldn’t even consider? Let me know in the comments what you think. 

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