Apple Approach Shows 5G Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Anurag Lal Anurag Lal, President and CEO of Infinite Convergence.

Apple recently introduced its iPhone 11 product line for 2019/2020 but held off introducing 5G-enabled phones. With 5G in its infancy and still a work in progress, Apple is taking the wise approach in waiting to roll out 5G phones.

One issue slowing the introduction of 5G iPhones is the wireless chip technology. In order to fully take advantage of 5G’s potential, there is still some work to be done here. Apple appears to be taking on the challenge of advancing wireless chip technology with its purchase of Intel’s smartphone modem business in July, fueling expectations that the company plans to develop its own 5G modems. Apple’s chipset development, however, may take a few years. In the meantime, Apple will likely purchase wireless chip technology from other suppliers like Qualcomm. The company recently settled litigation with Qualcomm, opening the door to buying the 5G modems from this supplier and leading to speculation that Apple could introduce a 5G iPhone in 2020.

It’s no surprise Apple is not first out of the gate in embracing 5G technology. The company does not have a reputation for being a first mover on new technologies, preferring to wait until a technology becomes mature and ready for mainstream adoption. Currently, 5G is not ready to deliver on its promise of faster speeds and more reliable connections. Nor will it yet yield the consumer satisfaction that Apple is known for. The company’s approach to introducing new products like 5G-enabled devices is probably best captured by a quote from Apple CEO Tim Cook in a 2014 Wall Street Journal article (cited on CNN Business) when he said: “our objective has never been to be first, it's to be the best."

The current 5G reality is that network buildouts are slow going and in markets where 5G is offered, coverage is still spotty. But 5G is coming and will have major implications for the global economy. The technology’s high speeds and low latency will allow connected devices to work more seamlessly than ever before, leading the way for the availability of new products and services. A recent GSMA report indicates that “5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years, with key sectors such as manufacturing, utilities and professional/financial services benefiting the most from the new technology.”

5G will also have a major impact in advancing applications like IoT, autonomous driving and AR and VR. The power of 5G to act as a catalyst for IoT innovation is one of the most exciting aspects of the coming widespread adoption of this technology. The digital transformation driven by IoT connected devices will create global economic growth, make smart cities a reality and foster many other innovations.

As 5G networks become more reliable and provide better customer experiences, companies like Apple will begin offering 5G-enabed devices that deliver a faster, richer mobile communication experience. While Apple’s slower approach to introducing 5G devices shows there’s still more work to be done before 5G is fully deployed, the next few years will see the promise of this technology come to fruition, ushering in a new era of more connected devices and innovation.

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