The 5G revolution is slowly getting off the ground but Apple will be sitting on the sidelines for the time being. As is to be expected, and similar to its previous strategy with respect to 4G a few years back, Apple is planning to wait for broader nationwide coverage before joining the 5G party. So while 2019 will see any number of 5G enabled devices from Android hit the market, iPhone users will have to wait a bit. The only question, though, is how long that wait is going to be.
Despite the widespread assumption that 5G enabled iPhones will hit store shelves in 2020, recent investor notes from analysts have raised the possibility that Intel — Apple’s chief 5G modem supplier — will not be able to produce modems at the scale Apple needs. Meanwhile, Apple isn’t liable to strike up a deal with Qualcomm given that the two companies are still battling it out over royalty payment issues in jurisdictions across the globe.
As to Intel’s alleged ongoing technical challenges, a Fast Company report from a few days back relayed the following:
The chip giant was to be the sole provider of the 5G modems in the 2020 iPhones, too, but it has been missing deadlines for the development of the chip, the XMM 8160 5G modem, a source with knowledge of the situation says.
In order to deliver big numbers of those modems in time for a September 2020 iPhone launch, Intel needs to deliver sample parts to Apple by early summer of this year, and then deliver a finished modem design in early 2020.
Not to despair, Intel was quick to squash any rumors that its 5G modem production might not be up to snuff. And though the company naturally didn’t reference Apple by name, it’s no secret what company it’s referencing when discussing delivering 5G modems to partners.
In a statement provided to Fast Company, an Intel spokesperson said the following: “As we said in November 2018, Intel plans to support customer device launches in 2020 with its XMM 8160 5G multimode modem.”
Of course, it goes without saying that missing the 5G boat in 2020 would represent a huge strategic blow for Apple. The good news, though, is that all of the rumors we’ve seen regarding an alleged 2021 launch window for 5G iPhones have come from analysts with far from perfect records with respect to Apple rumors.