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Apple’s 2020 iPhones: Expect all models to offer 5G after $1bn Intel deal

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A noted Apple watcher has told investors that all Apple’s 2020 iPhones will most likely support 5G – and not just the new models.  

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shared his opinion on Apple’s 5G strategy in a note to investors seen by MacRumors

Broader 5G support is said to be part of Apple’s plan to make iPhones more competitive with cheaper Android smartphones that will support 5G. 

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The accelerated 5G plan has been enabled by Apple’s recent acquisition of Intel’s modem business for $1bn, which brought around 2,200 Intel engineers and 17,000 patents to the iPhone maker. 

Apple needs to convince consumers to part with their cash in an environment where Android brands will be pitching 5G phones for between $250 and $350 in a market that doesn’t appreciate the nuances of the new mobile tech.

Kuo makes a distinction between 5G modems that operate at below 6GHz (sub-6GHz) and millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G but believes consumers generally won’t understand any difference beyond whether a phone is 5G or not. 

Qualcomm has announced mmWave and sub-6GHz modems. In the US, AT&T’s 5G efforts are focused on mmWave antennas, while T-Mobile plans to use mid-range spectrum

Millimeter-wave 5G is likely to be used more frequently in urban areas and offers higher speeds, but lacks the range available with sub-6GHz technology.

“We expect that the prices of 5G Android smartphones will decline to $249-$349 in 2H20,” wrote Kuo.

“We believe that 5G Android smartphones, which will be sold at $249-$349 USD, will only support sub-6GHz. But the key is that consumers will think that 5G is the necessary function in 2H20. Therefore, iPhone models which will be sold at higher prices have to support 5G for winning more subsidies from mobile operators and consumers’ purchase intention.”

Additionally, Apple’s 5G developments could benefit its augmented-reality ambitions, which may include a HoloLens-like headset. 

Kuo reckons all three new iPhone models in 2020 will support mmWave and sub-6GHz spectrums for the US market, but the company may also target the lower-end market by making a device that only supports sub-6GHz. 

“Apple may have the intention to launch the 5G iPhone, which only supports sub-6GHz, to gain market share by lowering the cost/price for markets which only support sub-6GHz (eg, Chinese market). However, 5G iPhone, which only supports sub-6GHz, and the version which supports mmWave and sub-6GHz are regarded as different projects even though they share the same form factor design.”

Despite Apple’s acquisition of Intel 5G modem business, the first iPhone with 5G is expected to use Qualcomm 5G modems under a six-year licensing agreement it reached with Qualcomm earlier this year as part of its settlement over a patent dispute. 


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