We don’t want to jump to conclusions, but does Apple have an LTE iPhone surprise up its sleeve? Yesterday we reported that one of Apple’s major carriers was already testing an LTE-enabled iPhone and now comes the above photo from Engadget (which has since been removed) showing some 4G LTE equipment being installed at a major Apple Store. The source tells Engadget that the equipment was installed by AT&T.
Making things somewhat more interesting is the equipment itself, one piece of which supports only the 700MHz and AWS bands — both of which AT&T plans to use for its LTE network if the T-Mobile acquisition goes through.
We’re also told that the Apple Store in question, and all those in the region, are now trying to increase staffing on the sales floor by about 30 percent, which is apparently not related to the usual hiring in the lead up to the holidays (that will apparently still happen later). Of course, this could simply be the result of some long-term planning rather than evidence of the next iPhone, but the timing is a bit curious to say the least.
Notably, AT&T issued a press release today announcing plans to roll out its 4G LTE network in five cities by the end of the summer – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. By the end of 2011, AT&T plans on rolling out its 4G LTE network to at least 15 new markets which would encompass 70 million Americans.
Not to temper any excitement, but it’s largely believed that Apple won’t support LTE until 2012. Recently, Tim Cook explained that current LTE chipsets aren’t compatible with Apple’s design goals and Apple isn’t shy about waiting for a technology to mature before hopping on board.
But with Apple looking to diversify its options in the face of growing competition from Android, it’s entirely plausible that Apple might pull the trigger on LTE before it had originally planned.