I bought an iPhone 4 in February, but my wife, who wants one badly, decided to wait. She travels to Europe and the Middle East frequently through the year for her job, and while AT&T would cover her in all the places she currently visits, their coverage at her parents’ house in the U.S. is a voice and data black hole. Considering we sometimes spend weeks there during the summer and around holidays, she wants a dual mode phone, one she can set up with a CDMA carrier stateside, or pop a GSM card in while traveling internationally. She’s been reading about an upcoming Apple phone that’ll do just that (and so, probably, have you).
The next-iPhone-as-world-phone rumor’s hardly new. Back in February, iFixit pulled Verizon’s CDMA iPhone 4 apart and—lo and behold—discovered a dual-mode GSM/CDMA chip. And in May, someone told FBR Capital Markets that a dual-mode iPhone 5 was coming in September. Even Verizon’s been loose-lipped about dual-mode functionality, claiming on a conference call in April that whenever Apple’s next device launches, Verizon would be “on equal footing with [its] competitors” and that the new phone would definitely ”be a global device.”
Now we’re hearing a few new notes from the same song courtesy an anonymous developer, who’s not-so-discreetly passed some device application logs along to a TechCrunch blogger. According to said blogger: “The logs show that the app has been briefly tested by a handful of people using what is almost certainly an iPhone 5, evidently running iOS 5, sporting two distinct sets of mobile network codes (MNC) / mobile country codes (MCC). Those codes can be used to uniquely identify mobile carriers.”
Registrations for the app were apparently logged from “a new Apple device,” and here’s the clincher: The device (as in one device, singular) used both Verizon and AT&T mobile country codes. Unless we’re talking about an experimental proto-phone, and assuming we’re not being fed a line by another noisemaker, that’s fairly telling stuff. I can’t say it doesn’t make world’s of sense (pun shamelessly intended). It’d be a boon for customers and Apple, assuming the logical and logistical implications are correct, that manufacturing an all-in-one iPhone is economically cheaper for Apple than supporting two discrete devices.
I’ll leave speculating (and grousing) about the lack of LTE support the move implies to others, but the prospect of dual-mode support would change everything for customers like my wife—frequent business travelers who’d love an iPhone but need a device with the broadest possible coverage, both domestically and abroad. Verizon’s global voice and data support list is prohibitively short, but have a look at it’s dual-band GSM lineup and you’ll see, of course, that it’s dramatically longer.