You probably won’t see 5G support on the iPhone models released next year. Apple doesn’t think next-generation networks will be reliable enough in 2019, but the Cupertino-based company isn’t completely staying away from the technology.
Apple and Intel are working on a 5G-enabled modem that’ll be introduced in 2020, according to Fast Company. Both sides would like to improve transistor density for speed and efficiency. Furthermore, the collaboration could be strengthened so much that Intel wins out at the sole supplier for this component.
The modem, labeled as the 8161, is based on the 10-nanometer process. Intel has also been developing the 8060, but that’ll be used for testing 5G on an iPhone prototype. Recently, the chipmaker has struggled to satisfy Apple as the 8060 can’t stay cool and properly dissipate any heat. If there’s overheating, the iPhone’s battery life decreases faster than usual.
Still, don’t expect Apple to run to Qualcomm. The two are at odds over a patent-related lawsuit, but Apple could select an up-and-coming chipmaker as an alternative. MediaTek could be a potential partner for the iPhone’s 5G-enabled modem. Even there, the chances are slim and MediaTek’s viewed as an emergency backup.
The major U.S. carriers are scheduled to go live with 5G networks in the first half of 2019. Hardware manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi, who are mostly choosing Qualcomm for 5G-enabled modems, should announce consumer-ready devices at MWC in late February.
In 2019, 5G connectivity might not be widespread despite the significant amount of resources going into development. All parties are prepared for a lengthy process to get 5G on the same level as 4G LTE. That’s why Apple can take its time to get 5G on the iPhone.