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First 5G iPhone won’t be released until 2020, Nikkei reports

Published Apr 17th, 2019 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 5G Release Date
Image: Zach Epstein for BGR

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The massive Apple-Qualcomm legal spat is now over, as the two companies on Tuesday announced they’ve decided to settle the matters between them and drop all litigation that involved licensing and intellectual property matters. The move wasn’t entirely unexpected. Most people probably expected Apple and Qualcomm to settle, but the timing of the deal was somewhat surprising, considering the trial had just started. As soon as the deal was announced, it became clear that Apple will use once again Qualcomm modems in future iPhone versions, including the 5G kind, which are already available on Android phones. That doesn’t mean that Apple will make a 5G iPhone this year, but a new report that surfaced after the settlement news claims that we’ll have a 5G iPhone in stores only in 2020.

We never expected Apple to launch a 5G iPhone this year, considering how Apple tackled both 3G and 4G in the past. However, recent reports said that Apple was having trouble securing 5G modems for its first iPhone, prompting speculation that the handset will be postponed. Companies including MediaTek, Samsung, and even Huawei were rumored to have been in negotiations with Apple for 5G chips, just as Qualcomm’s CEO said that Apple still has their number if they want to do business. The rumors also indicated that Intel’s 5G tech wasn’t going to be enough for Apple and that Apple’s own 5G chip might not be ready in time for the first-gen iPhone 5G model.

According to Nikkei, Apple has indeed been concerned that Intel would not be able to meet its 5G schedule, and this is what may have prompted the Qualcomm settlement.

“Apple had been a little concerned whether a sole supplier for modems could affect the company’s plan to introduce its first 5G smartphone next year,” a person familiar with Apple’s plans said.

“It is too late for Apple to use Qualcomm’s chips this year, but for 2020 it will purchase modem chips, including 5G modem chips, from the chipmaker for iPhones after finalizing the deal,” a source familiar with the settlement plan told Nikkei.

The report also notes that Apple is still working on its own 5G modem chips, “but multiple sources said that the company is unlikely to start using its own chips before 2021 because of the high technical barriers and time-consuming testing by telecom operators in markets worldwide.”

While the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, they apparently include a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, as well as a six-year license agreement effective as of April 1st, 2019. That would obviously cover Apple’s planned iPhone 5G launch.

Apple’s main rivals, including Samsung and Huawei, have already announced 5G devices that are set to launch this year — the Galaxy S10 5G is already out in Korea. Other companies including LG, OnePlus, and Xiaomi, have also unveiled 5G devices or plan to launch 5G phones in the coming weeks.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.