Apple has the pieces needed to build an iPhone model that can connect to just about any cellular network.
The evidence was found under the hood of a new iPhone 4 unit made for Verizon Wireless.
To work with the nonstandard infrastructure used by Verizon, Apple needed to deploy a different cell chip. The hardware company had to alter parts of the iPhone’s construction in order to make it compatible, Apple COO Tim Cook said during the phone’s coming-out event.
While the new iPhone will only work on Verizon’s network, the Qualcomm chip Apple is using in these new models is capable of connecting to Verizon’s network, as well as to carriers using the GSM standard, which is what AT&T and T-Mobile USA have.
The finding was unearthed by repair firm iFixIt in a full dissection of a Verizon iPhone obtained through the pre-order system.
The silicon chip in the iPhone is the same type used in another Verizon phone, the Droid Pro. The latter smartphone is designed for frequent travelers and can be used easily in most countries overseas.
But Apple didn’t develop the first-run Verizon iPhones in a way that lets them work internationally, despite the building blocks being there. For one, it’s lacking the crucial SIM card slot used for telling the phone which network it should connect to and what its phone number is.
AT&T is positioning this travel-ready ability as a major competitive advantage of its iPhones, and of other phones made for its network.
That Apple has a healthy supply of these dual-carrier chips could be a sign of an impending “universal iPhone.”
Charles Golvin, an analyst for Forrester Research, is confident that the next iPhone model, expected to come out this summer, will be capable of working on both Verizon and AT&T, along with most cell networks worldwide, he said in an interview.