Apple’s 5G iPhone Might Not Be Ready Until 2020 At The Earliest, Intel Announcement Suggests

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Reports from previous months had suggested that Apple might not be rolling out a 5G-equipped iPhone later this year as some had hoped. But with Intel’s confirmation on Friday that its 5G modem chips will only be making their way to mobile devices by 2020, it now appears almost certain that Apple’s 5G-enabled iPhone won’t be arriving until next year at the very earliest.

In a report published Friday, Reuters explained that Intel’s announcement essentially means Apple will be “more than a year behind” some of its top competitors if it releases a 5G iPhone by 2020, given how the California-based tech giant is Intel’s top customer. Speaking at a Palo Alto, California, media event, Intel executive Sandra Rivera said that the company will be shipping sample 5G chips to its customers later this year, but won’t be featuring the chips in consumer products until next year.

The aforementioned 5G modem chip rollout schedule and the very strong possibility Apple will not have a 5G iPhone ready until 2020 is consistent with a previous report from Bloomberg, as pointed out by Reuters. Furthermore, a separate piece from Fast Company noted in November that Apple hopes to use Intel’s upcoming 8161 chip in its 2020 iPhones, despite its “unhappiness” with a “precursor” chip known as the 8060 and its supposed heat dissipation issues.

If Apple’s 5G iPhones do indeed make their debut in 2020 — and end up being more than a year behind any number of competing flagship devices with 5G support — that won’t be unusual for the company in terms of its adoption of networking technologies. According to BGR, Apple’s first iPhone did not come with 3G support, while the iPhone 5, which was released in 2012, marked the belated debut of LTE connectivity on the device.

On the other hand, BGR also posited that the lack of 5G support on this year’s iPhone models should not be an issue due to the standard’s “somewhat slow and steady” global rollout.

“It makes sense why Apple isn’t exactly in a rush to introduce iPhones with 5G support. After all, what’s the point in introducing a 5G iPhone when nationwide and global coverage will be spotty at best?”

Despite the high likelihood that Apple’s 5G iPhone won’t be rolling out until 2020 or later, as well as the company’s ongoing legal dispute with Qualcomm, AppleInsider wrote that there could be a few other options available. In testimony for the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust trial against Qualcomm, Apple supply chain executive Tony Blevins hinted that the company is considering sourcing 5G modems from MediaTek or Samsung as an alternative to both Intel and Qualcomm.

In a separate report late last year, AppleInsider cited a rumor from the subscriber-only publication The Information that suggested Apple is planning to design its own 5G chips in-house. The report, however, also stressed that any in-house modem chip would be “three years away from shipping.”