What is LTG 4G?

LTE 4G is a heavily hyped fast-internet facility that is, on the whole, no use to UK buyers, since the infrastructure isn't in place yet. Telecoms watchdog Ofcom is supposed to be auctioning off chunks of radio spectrum (the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies) that will support the 4G services. This auction had been planned for early 2012, but it has been delayed (partly because the analogue TV signal was using the 800GHz band, and partly because the government has ruled that the networks had to offer 4G over the 800GHz spectrum as it has better reach and will therefore be accessible all over the country). 

However, the government has allowed EE (Everything Everywhere) to 'refarm' portions of its 2G spectrum in the 1,800MHz band so that it can offer a 4G service in a handful of cities around the UK. The service hasn’t actually launched yet, and as yet we haven't been given a launch date, other than the vague “in a few weeks”.

LTE 4G isn’t even 4G. The LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and although marketed as 4G, it doesn’t meet the technical requirements the 3GPP consortium has adopted for its new standard generation.

Can I get LTE 4G?

There is only one network in the UK that will be offering LTE 4G - new network EE. iPhone customers on Orange and T-Mobile networks (the two networks combining to form EE – formerly known as Everything Everywhere) will start to see the EE symbol on their phones shortly, however this doesn’t mean customers are getting the new 4G service. An EE representative told us: “They will only have access to 3G. In order to access 4G they will need to move over to EE. The process will be simple, and all that is required is a new SIM card and EE plan, which can be arranged with our service agents. Customers will not be charged for breaking their contract early, as long as they move to an equivalent priced and length plan on EE.”

So, if you want a 4G LTE networked iPhone in the UK you will need to move over to EE and take out a new contract.

And to enjoy 4G you need to be based in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, (who will have EE’s LTE 4G at launch) or Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton, if you can wait until Christmas.

Should I be bothered about 4G?

EE’s LTE 4G technology has a theoretical speed of 100Mbps. However, you should expect a typical average speed of between 8Mbps and 12Mbps. EE said the typical maximum speed and peak speed are 40Mbps and 64Mbps respectively.

Should I wait for the other networks to launch LTE 4G?

Don’t buy an iPhone expecting that it will magically work on the UK’s 4G network when it does launch. There are actually three versions of the iPhone 5 available around the world; each is equipped to use a different sets of frequencies so that they are compatible with the various 4G networks around the world. Apple includes the 1800MHz band for LTE in two of those iPhone 5 models – which is good news for EE as that’s the band they are using. However, there are 41 different bands being used for LTE 4G around the world, compared with 22 bands for 3G technology, and the iPhone won’t work with all of them. Crucially, Apple has left two bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz – out, both of which are critical to LTE service in Europe and the UK. Indeed, 800MHz and 2.6GHz are the two spectrum bands that UK operators will be bidding for in Ofcom's forthcoming 4G auction.

There is a glimmer of hope if you are with 3: EE was forced to sell 2x15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to 3 as part of the terms of the merger of T-Mobile and Orange in 2010. However, 3 has not yet announced any plans to launch a 4G network in this band. 

What is NFC?

NFC (Near Field Communication) technology is what allows you use your credit card to pay for something just by tapping, the same technology could also allow payment with a mobile phone. The technology is still in the early days, however, and there are a number of security concerns.

Those security concerns didn't stop some from hoping that Apple would turn its famous ability to deliver new technology through great user experience and kick-start the widespread adoption of mobile payments by consumers. Apple recently acquired security firm AuthenTec in a move that some thought might help Apple address the security demands of NFC.

Why is there no NFC in the iPhone 5?

However, Apple’s iPhone 5 does not include NFC. Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said that: "Passbook does the kinds of things customer need today." Passbook relies on barcode optical scanning of digital tickets, boarding passes and cash cards, rather than NFC technology.

Does it matter that there is no NFC in the iPhone 5?

It may not matter that Apple didn’t include NFC with the iPhone 5. Research by credit card comparison site CreditDonkey.com suggests that consumers aren't ready to abandon their leather wallets for mobile ones yet. In addition, mobile payment experts have said that Apple was right to ignore NFC, given its slow rollout. Aite Group analyst Rick Oglesby noted that only two percent of merchants globally are equipped with NFC-reader terminals, not nearly enough to merit Apple's attention. He said: “Apple would need something really global to make it work.”

However, Miles Quitmann, MD of UK-based communications marketing company Proxama disagreed: “NFC is going to progress at a pace without Apple. This could be Apple's loss,” he said. 

What is HD Voice?

One of the new features coming with the iPhone 5 is HD Voice, unfortunately many will be unable to experience this new technology which requires that both parties have the necessary technology, that they are on the same network, and that the network supports HD Voice.

It might be good to talk, but the reason why talking to someone on the phone is never as good as talking to them in person is that the human voice ranges from 80Hz to 14kHz while traditional telephone calls are only able to achieve audio frequencies in the range of 300Hz to 3.4kHz. HD Voice ups the audio frequency range from 50Hz to 7kHz or higher.

Benefits include: clearer sound quality; easier to distinguish confusing sounds; you should be able to hear faint talkers and understand when everyone is speaking at the same time; it will be easier to understand (and distinguish between) talkers who are using a speakerphone or in the presence of background noise; and there should be less “listener fatigue”.

The technology was developed by Nokia and VoiceAge. A few handsets have already been produced supporting HD Voice, including models from Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Sony.

Which UK networks offer HD Voice?

We contacted all the networks in the UK. So far we have had confirmation that EE, Orange and Three (3) will be supporting HD Voice on the iPhone, although T-Mobile claims to be offering HD Voice on its website, probably via its connection with EE and Orange. O2 parent company Telefonica told us it has “no plans for HD voice (WB-AMR) at present”.

What’s that I head about Apple changing the dock?

One new feature of the iPhone 5 has probably met with more disdain than any other. Despite it’s presence enabling Apple to make the iPhone 5 slimmer, and despite the fact that it's the first time Apple has changed the port in a decade, the fact that Apple has ditched the 30-pin connector in favour of the new Lightning port, has left many consumers dismayed. However, it should be noted that this is the first time in a decade that the company has changed the port on it's devices, in the same time arch-enemy Samsung has changed its connector 18 times.

Will the iPhone 5 work with my old accessories?

As Apple’s Marketing VP Phil Schiller noted during the keynote that launched the iPhone 5, in the past decade much has changed and so many of the things we used to do over the wire can now be done wirelessly. For example, we use Bluetooth to connect to speakers and headphones; WiFi can be used for audio and syncing; many modern iPhone stereos stream music straight from your iPhone using AirPlay, and iCloud can be used for downloading content wirelessly and backing up.

If you have an iPhone stereo that doesn’t have AirPlay, or a battery pack that you were hoping to carry on using, you are out of luck. Apple does have an adapter available, but it comes at a price.

How much does the adaptor cost?

Some consumers are angry that Apple expects them to pay for the Lightning adaptor. In the UK, customers are doubly disappointed with Apple. The price of the various Lightning adapters and cables is higher here than in the US; in the case of the Lightening adaptor UK consumers will be paying a sixth more than those in the US sparking the usual Rip off Britain claims. The Lightning to USB Cable will cost £15, the Lightning adapter will retail at £25 and the Lightning-to-30-pin connector cable is £30.

Why didn't Apple use the Micro USB connector?

When Apple came out in support of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s recommendation for a universal micro USB mobile charging standard, many had hoped that Apple would move away from its proprietary ports.

IHS analyst Ian Fogg sheds some light on why Apple’s Lightning port is a superior option: “Apple’s iPhone connectors offer more functionality than standard micro USB connectors, like the ability to directly control accessories from the iPhone screen, and it enables Apple to deliver a rich variety of third-party accessories,” he told AllThingsD.

I’m keeping my existing contract and upgrading my iPhone, do I have to get a nano-SIM?

If you want to keep your existing contract and buy the new iPhone 5 you will need a nano-SIM. The nano-SIM is smaller than the micro-SIM used by the iPhone 4, 4S and iPad, so if you have one of these devices you won’t be able to simply swap SIM cards. This new nano-SIM card measures just 12.3 x 8.8mm, and its thickness has also been reduced fractionally, from 0.76mm of the 1FF, 2FF and 3FF cards, to 0.67mm. The difference in thickness, even just 0.09mm, may cause problems when a cut-down micro-SIM is inserted into an aperture designed for a nano-SIM.

How does the iPhone 5 square up to the competition? 

While there are many smartphones on the market that offer LTE 4G and HD Voice, larger screens, NFC, and micro-USB ports, Apple does appear to have the lead when it comes to processor power right now.

Apple’s not said much about the A6 chip inside the iPhone 5, other than to claim that it provides twice the CPU performance and twice the graphics performance of the A5x chip that features in the iPhone 4S.

News has emerged, however, suggesting that Apple has designed its own CPU for the iPhone 6, rather than licensing a Cortex-A9 or next-generation Cortex-A15 from ARM. Apple’s A6 CPU is based the ARMv7s architecture and is thought to have a dual-core design, running at 1.2GHz. The custom CPU is similar the to Cortex-A15 and the Krait CPU that appears in Qualcomm’s chips, according to Gwennap.

Apple was able to take the design of the A6 chip in house because some years back it spent $400 million on the acquisitions of PA Semi and Intrinsity. “That half billion dollars could be money well spent,” writes Lynley Group head Lynley Gwennap, revealing that Samsung won't be able to match the power of the new chip for three months. This seems to be backed up by Geekbench results: the iPhone 5 achieved a score of 1,601 on Geekbench - more than twice as much as the iPhone 4S' score of 636 and the New iPad (775). It also scores higher than various Android devices. The Samsung Galaxy S3 gets a score of 1,588, HTC One X scores 1,085, and the Google Nexus 7 scores 1,591.

Follow Karen Haslam on Twitter / Follow MacworldUK on Twitter

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