Industry sources in Taiwan told DigiTimes that LTE smartphones could represent as much as 5 percent of global shipments this year, reaching between 25 million and 30 million units. It noted that while LTE devices are currently a small portion of cell phone sales, that is expected to change in the second half of the year, when Apple is rumored to join the fray.
"While Android (is) still dominating the LTE smartphone segment, Nokia and HTC have launched LTE Windows Phone models, and Apple and RIM are expected to release comparable models running on their own platforms in the second half of 2012, indicated the sources," the report said.
The report comes soon after Bloomberg said last Friday that Apple has begun production of an LTE-capable third-generation iPad model. That device is expected to launch in March.
But the iPhone will have to wait for an upgrade until the second half of 2012. Last year, Apple waited longer than usual to introduce a new smartphone, launching the iPhone 4S in October. A sixth-generation iPhone is expected to be launched about the same time in 2012.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said last week that Apple's next iPhone may include a quad-mode chip from Qualcomm that would allow it to "run on all 3G and LTE network flavors. However, analyst Katy Huberty cautioned it was "too early to know for sure" if 4G LTE will in fact make it to Apple's sixth-generation iPhone.
Some were hopeful last year that the iPhone 4S would become Apple's first 4G LTE product. But in April, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said poor battery life and other issues with current LTE technology were not up to standard.
"The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset," Cook said last April, "and some of those we are just not willing to make."