Qualcomm has been very public about its plans and already has signed 20 OEMs to launch 5G NR, 3GPP certified phones in 1H 2019. Apple, on the other hand, has been known as a company that doesn’t jump in many technologies and takes its time.
It is kind of absurd, as many times Apple has leading-edge manufacturing on its SoCs and a few other fields but when it comes to some standards in wireless, the company takes its time.
Apple/Intel will be late to 5G NR party
Apple was late to 3G and 4G and it will be late compared to its competition with 5G. Apple is playing the card that 2020 will be the year where 5G really takes off, and this is probably true for many markets. But some major markets including USA, China, Australia and a lot of European countries will. According to a multiple conversation about the matter, multiple independent sources confirm that Apple is unlikely to have a 5G powered phone in 2019.
Apple always tells its customers how to think. The iPhone mass market is not tech savvy, so the company doesn’t even need to care. End users for the most part understand and want better pictures, better video and better slow motion pictures. It comes down to that and the fact that the phone needs to be responsive in everyday tasks.
With all that in mind, Apple will skip the first wave of 5G and wait for Intel to get ready. This decision is simply based on the fact that Intel is unlikely to have its 5G NR modem ready in time to fight the Qualcomm’s competition. Intel calls its modem XMM 8000 and the only thing we could see at the Mobile World Congress 2018 was the FPGA big box that doesn’t really looks ready. Huawei, another 5G NR player showed a chip that definitely won't fit into any phones and from where we stand, Huawei has made better progress compared to Intel.
It is just amazing how the critical mass of Apple users can be excited about the phone with a notch, with little bezel, something that Xiaomi did almost two years ago. The crazy part is that the bezel less phone with a notch called iPhone X starts at €1,149,00 and ends at €1,319,00. Europeans pay even more than the US market.
Samsung is also overcharging its customers and it wants €841 for the Galaxy S9 and €997 for the Galaxy S9+. You should be grateful that Chinese companies realized that they can charge for high end phones at $/€ 499 and still make money. A recent example is the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, a truly bezel less phone or the One Plus 5T, both featuring the best SoC available and below the $499 mark.
Still, Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus will have a 5G phone ready in 2019. One can speculate that Samsung’s phone comes about a year from now and ends up with the Galaxy S10 name. Sounds about right from where we stand but Apple, simply, won’t have any 5G NR in 2019.
Let’s do a safe harbor. If in some miracle driven world Apple and its recent boyfriend company Intel decides to launch a 5G NR, and as far as many industry contacts we have chatted too, it won’t, an iPhone 2019 should launch in September 2019 possibly good two quarters after the competition.