UPDATE [Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 8:50am ET]: Carrier NTT DoCoMo has issued an official statement addressing the Nikkei Business report, included at the end of the article.
According to the Japanese blog Macotakara, which relayed a Nikkei Business story, Apple is gearing up for a 2012 release of both 4G LTE iPhone and iPad on NTT DoCoMo, the predominant mobile phone operator in Japan. According to the machine-translated article:
NTT DOCOMO releases iPad for LTE in the summer of next year and releases iPhone for LTE by autumn.
The Fall 2011 timeframe for a 4G LTE iPhone 5 sounds right as it’s about a year since the October 14 debut of iPhone 4S. The carrier’s president Takashi Yamada and vice president Kiyoyuki Tsujimura allegedly met with Apple CEO Tim Cook mid-November to discuss the deal. They reportedly “agreed in principle” to sell both the next-generation iPhone and iPad. The executives apparently pinned down the rules of the game at the meeting, including order commitment.
Despite the rumor-mill insisting that Apple was readying a 4G LTE iPhone, the company’s management downplayed the fourth-generation Long Term Evolution radio technology because the current crop of 4G LTE chips are not fully optimized for low power consumption on mobile devices. Apple’s chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said on an April 2011 earnings call:
The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make.
The Wall Street Journal reported mid-November that negotiations with carriers in Asia came to a standstill because Apple was requiring iPhone sellers to commit to too large a volume. Additionally, NTT DoCoMo wanted to control what software goes on users’ iPhones, a concession Apple was unwilling to make.