Why the iPhone 5 on Verizon and Sprint won’t do simultaneous voice and data

“A lot has changed in Apple’s new iPhone. But with the Verizon Wireless and Sprint versions of the iPhone 5, there’s something that will remain the same from the old model: The phone still won’t be able to place a call and handle data activity over the cellular network at the same time,” Brian X. Chen reports for The New York Times.

“Brenda Raney, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman, said it was Apple’s decision to design the iPhone 5 so that customers could make voice calls and do Internet activity simultaneously only over Wi-Fi, not over Verizon’s cell network,” Chen reports. “‘The iPhone 5 is designed to allow customers to make voice calls on the Verizon Wireless network and surf the Web on Wi-Fi,’ she said in an e-mail. ‘It was an Apple decision.'”

Chen reports, “The explanation for this, it turns out, is complicated. 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… In the next two years, 4G LTE technology is supposed to evolve to support voice calls…”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Judge Bork” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. There is so much confusion about this all over the internet! Everybody seems to think you can talk and surf on Verizon with the new iPhone! Everybody is assuming, just hope they don’t make an A** out of themselves in the process. =D

  2. This was a question I had so I’m glad it’s cleared up BUT…I dont like the answer. I was hoping this would be the phone that finally made that option available on Verizon. After having an original iPhone and a 3GS on AT&T I switched to Verizon and I constantly find myself trying to use data while on a call. It’s just one of those little things that makes life with the iPhone better.

    1. Yep. It was “Apple’ decision” to accept the limitations of our network. Of course, it was the only decision possible…but that sounds better than our network cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.

      I am so tired of misdirection and misinformation.

    2. It was Apple’s choice to use the LTE chip that they chose. Other LTE phones can and do, do voice over CDMA whilst data runs on the LTE chip…because the phone manufacturer chose to use two chips. The limitation is in how Apple have implemented LTE on the iPhone.

      1. Apple made the right choice. Soon all networks will support voice over LTE with just a software upgrade. MetroPCS is already running trials right now (believe it or not). In a year or two, the iPhone 5 will likely have a software upgrade, and do voice over LTE with one chip and use less power. All the other manufacturers will have to redesign their phone again.

        Considering the iPhone 4 is still being sold today. The iPhone 5 is a very good long-term design that can keep being sold in the future and will only get better with time.

        The two chip solution is a short term fix, for a short term problem, creating long term battery problems that won’t be fixed with a software upgrade.

        Once again, Apple made the right choice.

        1. I hope you are right, and Apple will just push a software update down the road and all of a sudden we’ll have voice over LTE. Being a long time buyer of consumer electronics though, I have learned not to expect features that you don’t have on the day you bought the phone. Unless Apple specifically says that they will provide the update at a later date, how do I know that they wont pull a “siri” where the functionality could technically work on an older phone with a simple software update, but they withhold it for whatever reason.

          Also.. all the other manufacturers will not necessarily have to redesign their phones. If they support LTE now, theoretically they can also push a software update just as easily to support VoLTE. Right?

          1. But they would still have the problem of the extra CDMA chip which they can’t turn off because not everywhere has 4G signals and the only way to “listen” for 3G for fail-over when you move out of the 4G area is for the 3G chip to be on. Not that it is an impossible problem to solve, (maybe they could turn on the chip 3G chip automatically when LTE drops, and periodically “poll” for 4G signals when in 3G area), but that would be less reliable and would still draw extra power for the polling. No matter how they do it there will always be at least some overlap where both chips are on.

            Based on past experience, outside of Apple most manufacturers rarely upgrade their phones anyway. Usually they make you buy a new one for new features.

            As far as Apple doing a software upgrade, you are right it is anybody’s guess, but I think this is a different case than Siri.

            By upgrading to Voice Over LTE (VoLTE), sound quality is dramatically improved, so if they are still selling the iPhone 5 I would think they would want the quality boost. The next version of Galaxy S3 (rumored to ship in two months) will already be VoLTE for MetroPCS. Apple puts their products at a disadvantage by not doing it that can simply be fixed with a patch.

            The reason Siri was never allowed on the iPhone 4 (rumored) is because the microphone wasn’t high enough quality to get voice commands filtered out from background noise good enough for Siri to work reliably (or up to Apple standards). Supposedly, the iPhone 4 Siri experience is not very good.

            Upgrading an iPhone 5 wouldn’t have this kind of problem and would be an instant upgrade to higher quality voice simultaneously with data.

            In one year, the iPhone 5 will be competing against a whole slew of VoLTE phones, so I would think they’d have to do it no matter what.

            …but you are right, it is anybody’s guess, yet I can’t help but think that the one chip solution fits Apple’s long term view of not leaving people behind unless it is absolutely necessary. I don’t think leaving iPhone 5 users behind fits the “absolutely necessary” mold, but I could be wrong. I can’t help but think they were planning ahead, and nothing more.

    3. This absolutely sucks. The iPhone 5 can’t do voice and data simultaneously on Verizon or Sprint and on AT&T, it must switch to 3G data whenever you use the phone for a voice call. Android phones have been ale to do LTE data with simultaneous voice for over a year now. Maybe Apple needs to copy a few things from Samsung.

        1. What do you mean? Is there something incorrect in what I said? On Verizon and Sprint, voice and data will not work simultaneously. On AT&T, it will work, but the phone must fall back to 3G (or what AT&T calls 4G). LTE data will not work while you are talking.

        1. Well I’ve never heard anyone complain about the battery life of a Galaxy S3.. and the droid razor maxx actually touts their battery life as it’s main feature. So obviously it’s possible to have this feature and not absolutely kill battery life.

  3. If you use a VOIP app you can do both- just don’t use the normal phone when needing data.

    Take your pick, you can also install it on your iPad and make a phone out of it.

  4. “Plus, in the next two years, 4G LTE technology is supposed to evolve to support voice calls, which would render another antenna unnecessary.”

    Apple was smart to NOT include another antanae. Sorry Verizon/sprint iPhone users.. But it’s a carrier issue NOT apple or iPhone. (that is changing though)

    And before anyone comes out and says something like “how often do you really use voice/data at the same time?” etc

    I use a Bluetooth headset, and yes while in a call I am constantly using data for whatever reason.
    Something I used every so often before the Bluetooth headset, I find myself using both a ton now (even though I have always been in AT&T with an iPhone)

    Verizon has its strengths, as well as AT&T. Preference and location IMO.
    Verizon used to suck around here, still spotty in places.. But I have to admit that Verizon rolled out LTE this year, AT&T has not yet. Granted Verizon probably did so cause they knew they had crap coverage and had to spend money here.. I think 2nd half 2013 (or later…) AT&T is rolling out LTE to catch up here.
    Have noticed that my brother in law on verizon now has coverage 2 miles away from a lake we fish at, before there was no coverage by any network for 20 miles…

    For me, AT&T for my iphone 5. (cant take my unlimited away from me, yet…) But Verizon is looking better all the time now… My next iPad… Verizon model. AT&T wants extra for tethering that Verizon includes. Although I would rarely use it.. But like I said, LTE is here now for Verizon and not AT&T.

    1. Then please tell me why a Samsung galaxy s3 on Verizon is able to pull off this supposedly miraculous feat? In fact, I can’t think of a single 4g android phone that has this limitation.

        1. But the thing is, I don’t WANT, an android phone. I want an iPhone, and I didnt think it was asking to much for apple to figure out how to do simultaneous voice and data on their latest and greatest phone when so many otherwise crappy phones can do it already.

          1. Just wait, I believe the feature you are waiting for is coming just as soon as Verizon and Sprint enable VoLTE. Apple can (technically) fix the phone with a patch.

  5. So does the iPhone 5 make calls on 4G or does it only do data on 4G? In this article it says that it roles back to older technology to data and voice. So where does the 4G work then?
    Maybe it’s to early to upgrade.

  6. Got a AT&T iPhone 4. Done with the contract. Live in Chicago. AT&T sucks here. Is it worth it to make the switch to Verizon? Do those of you that switched miss the simultaneous voice and data?

    4 hours to make this decision!

    1. I haven’t switched from AT&T but I can say being a regular joe, I use them both at the same time quite a bit. More then not, it’s important. But if Chicagos AT&T is as bad as I hear, you have no choice. Unless the word is AT&T is gonna get better. I’m sure it will but you have to deal with the BS dropped calls or no signal etc… Till they get it together.
      I’d PROBABLY switch. That’s only if its as bad as I hear.

  7. I disagree with this write up, i have used the EVO 4g on sprint and was able to have a voice call (on speaker) and browse the internet. This is because the voice call goes over 3G, and the data goes over 4G. Simple as that!

    1. From what I understood some phones put a extra antenna on the phone to do that. Apple didn’t. From what article said they didn’t cuz soon all will be on LTE (voice and data) so apple didn’t want to add another antenna that would be useless soon. That what it sounded like to me. They can’t help that some carriers just used old tech. That being said, I’d be pissed if I weren’t with AT&T cuz I use the feature (I guess you could call it that) often.. But I’m sure there are benefits on sprint and Verizon that out weigh this. REAL unlimited data with sprint and whatever for Verizon.

      1. The voice over 4g technogy is called VoLTE. Verizon is supposed to roll out over the next 3 years. I haven’t been able to find any spec that says that the iPhone 5 supports VoLTE. I hope it does, but at this point..who knows? Maybe their HD voice that they mentioned us this technology.

  8. I am a huge Apple fanboi, but not on this issue. If you live in one of the many areas of this country where Verizon has 4G service and AT&T service is poor, Apple’s decision to use the 2nd antenna slot to spike the fake “iphone 4 reception problem” rather than provide a separate CDMA voice circuit like the Android phone do, or alternatively to make space for a second radio if that was needed, leaves you with no simultaneous voice/data option. You can say that VoLTE will solve this problem, but we all know that Verizon won’t get around to doing this until the iPhone 5SVD is released next September. Their spokespeople were telling the tech press in May that “there’s no rush to implement VoLTE because only 2 phone support it.”

    1. I know jack about the insides of a cellphone but if it wouldn’t have caused apple to rewire and redesign or remove something, I’m sure they would have. Yea easier said for me. Im outside looking in. But I’d assume if it was convenient for them, they woulda done it. Maybe it’s all gonna be LTE sooner then we know. So that’s why they didn’t put In the extra antenna.

    2. Why support old tech that WILL be replaced over the next two years?
      It’s kinda like apple putting Rosetta in mountain lion to support dead apps that people are too lazy to update their software or abandon ware…
      Lte is the future, apple knows this and has put a chip together that supports current and future standards, why should they have to support old standards from the 80’s cause of 2 carriers in the US that are begining to see the error in their ways?

      Some android phones had to do this to even compete…. And I bet you that if the iPhone on AT&T didnt do simultaneous voice and data to begin with… They wouldn’t have even considered it.

      Verizon and spirit are playing catch up, and don’t think it’s all AT&T’s fault that they don’t have better coverage where you are. Regulations on towers, both location and number of towers in a given area, are not up to the carriers as much as you think.

      1. Why buy an iPhone 5 when the iPhone 5SVD will claim operational VoLTE as a new feature? I’d rather stay with my LG flip phone another year. Some of us have been waiting for SVD since Apple announced the Verizon iPhone.

          1. No, I understand that it is both companies’ fault, and each one has its own reasons. But Apple is supposed to care about its customers, and generally it does. In this case, however, PR problems and the obsession about thinness overcame customer satisfaction. Whether or not you approve of CDMA technology, Verizon has the best network in the US, and the iPhone should be designed to deliver the best service that a Verizon cellphone can provide.

            1. “best network” is subjective though… I get full bars at work, yet Verizon loses signal in our building… And there is a spot downtown that until last year, coverage dropped to edge for Verizon.

              I fly fish almost every weekend in the summer, I have coverage in the mountains where my brother in law has no coverage.

              Like I said elsewhere though, Verizon IS getting better around here, but even sprint beats them most of the time. Obviously where you live AT&T is the weaker carrier. Here it’s the opposite.

              But I don’t agree that apple needs to pander to any carrier, they are building the iPhones to the standards, not the carriers. The rest of the world doesn’t use CDMA… Only USA and parts of Asia, rest of the world uses gsm.

              Carriers are like music, people have their preferences for whatever reason and will argue that what they listen to is better than what someone else listens to.

            2. You are right that the Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint networks are strong in some places and weak in others. But iPhone activation data from the first quarter of 2011 until the first quarter of 2012 (9to5mac.com, July 7, 2012) show that just over 35% of those activations (14 million) were on Verizon. Is that not enough market potential to justify a little bit of “pandering”?

  9. This is the DUMBEST thing about LTE, that they didn’t sort how to do voice calls over it. It’s not like it was some kind of surprise that it was going to be used for voice calls.

  10. In the next two years, 4G LTE technology is supposed to evolve to support voice calls…

    In the next two years we will have ACTUAL ‘4G’ LTE Advanced available and this won’t be a problem. Until then, we have ACTUAL 3G LTE technology with which to contend. ‘4G’ remains merely a marketing term at this point in time, not a fact.

  11. Sweet! With an AT&T iPhone 5, I can use voice and data simultaneously?!?! Nope! AT&T still has f@cking EDGE in my neck of the woods! So … this AT&T ‘advantage’ won’t materialize for those who live in the ‘Fresh Air District’.

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