It was reported last month that Apple was planning on equipping its 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch 2020 iPhone’s with 5G Support, while a cheaper iPhone XR (review) successor would only support LTE network. Kuo seems to be changing his stance on this matter now as he now says that all three iPhones that will launch next year will support 5G networks. According to Kuo, Apple’s recent acquisition of Intel’s smartphone baseband business has helped the company acquire more resources to help in this endeavor. Kuo also says that one of the key motivations for Apple to make such a decision is the competition from its Android-based rivals. Furthermore, the advancements Apple stands to gain in its AR ecosystem with 5G is also a contributing factor.
Apple’s Acquisition of Intel’s Modem Business Will Help Build 5G iPhones
It has been mere days since it was announced that Apple had acquired a majority of Intel’s modem business for $1 Billion. Under this deal, Apple will be getting a hold of 2,200 Intel employees along with 17,000 wireless technology patents. Apple has only taken over mobile modem production, though, as Intel will still retain rights to develop non-smartphone modems for devices such as PCs, industrial equipment and self-driving cars.
While this acquisition will indeed help Apple make 5G modems for its smartphone, there is still time for the Cupertino-based giant to severe ties with Qualcomm for processors for its iPhones. We will have to wait until at least 2021 as that is when the company is reportedly planning to have in-house manufactured chipsets ready for its devices.
Affordable 5G Android Smartphones Are Also A Threat
Kuo expects 5G Android smartphones’ prices to go down to $249-$359 by 2020. He also believes that most of these smartphones will be making use of only Sub-6GHz and not mmWave. For those who might be unfamiliar with 5G tech, mmWave is the super-fast 5G network people most commonly talk about. Meanwhile, Sub-6GHz is still technically 5G and is indeed faster than 4G, but it isn’t as fast as mmWave.
This understanding is necessary as it will likely be cheaper for phone makers to use Sub-6GHz hardware on their phones. With 5G technically being available on less-expensive Android phones, the general consumer will begin to consider 5G as a compulsory feature to have. As such, Apple will have no choice other than to equip its handsets with 5G. But knowing Apple, the brand would not compromise with a lower-spec variant of 5G and go the extra mile of adding mmWave + Sub-6GHz support to its smartphones, thus justifying their higher price.
With that said, there is a possibility the brand would be working on an affordable variant of the iPhone that only supports Sub-6GHz. Then again, Apple might not have enough resources to support such a program. According to Kuo, “Apple may have the intention to launch the 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz, to gain market share by lowering the cost/price for markets which only support Sub-6GHz (e.g., Chinese market). However, 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz and the version which supports mmWave & Sub-6GHz are regarded as different projects even though they share the same form factor design.”
Apple is expected to release three iPhones in 2020 with 6.7-inch, 5.4-inch, and 6.1-inch sized screens. All three are expected to feature OLED panel, unlike the current lineup that makes use of an LCD on the XR variant.