For some customers, choosing which carrier to begin their iPhone 5 journey with has gotten much easier. That’s especially true if you’re the type who likes to have simultaneous use of voice and data. According to multiple reports, and more importantly Verizon Wireless, “The iPhone 5 is designed to allow customers to make voice calls on the Verizon Wireless network and surf the Web on Wi-Fi. It was an Apple decision.” In clearer terms, you will not be able to make calls and use data on Verizon Wireless network, unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. And yes Sprint customers, this applies to you as well.
Why? Well, this has long been a limitation of the CDMA network and protocols that Verizon Wireless and Sprint uses. But wasn’t this supposed to change with the launch of LTE? Yes and no! While theoretically, LTE frees up CDMA for calls, it’s all in the radios. And more importantly, it comes down to the manufacturing choices that Apple made. Here’s how the NYTimes explains it –
The technology in 4G LTE networks does not currently handle voice transmissions; it only does data. So when you place a phone call on a 4G LTE smartphone, it’s actually rolling back to the carrier’s older second- or third-generation network, according to AnandTech, a Web publication that does deep analysis on hardware. That means when AT&T customers place a phone call and use data on the iPhone 5, both functions will roll back to AT&T’s older network, which can handle them simultaneously. When you place a phone call while using data in an app with a Verizon or Sprint iPhone 5, it will roll back to their older CDMA networks, which are not capable of simultaneously doing calls and data. And that’s why the iPhone 5 on Verizon and Sprint, despite being a 4G LTE device, will still not do both at the same time.
In addition to that report, Apple also officially stated that the “iPhone 5 supports simultaneous voice and data on GSM-based 3G and LTE networks. It is not yet possible to do simultaneous voice and data on networks that use CDMA for voice and LTE for data in a single radio design.” That “single radio design” highlights exactly why Verizon’s and Sprint’s iPhone 5 will not be able to support the feature, and why other devices such as the Galaxy S III can. Samsung added the extra antenna. Apple did not.
So if this issue is important to you, and you do not want to wait a year or two when LTE will support both voice and data, the carrier selection process has become clearer. Is it worth it?