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Apple’s 5G iPhone may face some interesting supply challenges

March 5th, 2019 at 4:55 PM

With the rest of the mobile world scrambling to embrace 5G in 2019, it’s no secret that Apple is in no rush to roll out iPhones with 5G support anytime soon. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that Apple didn’t embrace 3G with the original iPhone and took its sweet time before embracing 4G LTE with the iPhone 5. Truthfully, Apple’s strategy with respect to 5G is perfectly understandable given that broad coverage for 5G across the country is going to take some time. Indeed, many carriers won’t see significant 5G coverage until the latter half of 2019.

All that said, a new report from Bloomberg relays that when Apple finally does decide to embrace 5G — presumably with its 2020 iPhone lineup — the company may have some trouble sourcing components. Remember, with Apple currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with Qualcomm, the company isn’t left with many options.

To this point, Cowen analyst Matthew Ramsay explains that while Apple will likely source all of its 5G modems from Intel, it’s far from an ideal situation.

Bloomberg reports:

Apple’s first option, Cowen wrote, is to “launch 18 months after 5G competition with an inferior modem from Intel likely without mmWave capabilities,” referring to the band of spectrum that can be used for 5G’s high-speed wireless communications.

Another option would be to “source a 5G modem from chief competitor Samsung,” Cowen wrote, though it added that would likely come only on “tough commercial terms.” Using a 5G modem from Huawei is “off the table as an option,” Cowen told clients, while “MediaTek’s stack is too far behind in terms of timeline.”

One of the more intriguing options, according to Ramsay, involves Apple purchasing Intel’s modem business. It may seem far-fetched, but it’s worth mentioning that Apple has reportedly been working on developing its own 5G modems, though that initiative will assuredly not be ready in time for Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup.

Qualcomm is undoubtedly the top dog when it comes to supplying 5G modems, and with the two companies still battling it out in courts across the globe, it doesn’t look like a settlement — if one does transpire — will wrap up soon enough to allow for Apple to source modems from Qualcomm.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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