Sagacious Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is expecting three new iPhones in 2020, and he’s saying they’ll all be wired for 5G support. The detail comes from an investor note obtained by MacRumors so it’s not exactly straight from Apple, but Kuo is a highly regarded analyst.
He had previously said back in June that two of the three expected iPhone models would be 5G-ready, so this is really more of an update to that earlier note. There’s a few reasons key reasons for the update.
The first is tied to a bit of fresh Apple news: the iPhone maker only recently acquired Intel’s modem business, which Mashable’s Karissa Bell already identified as a major boost for cellular Apple devices.
Kuo agrees. “Apple has more resource for developing the 5G iPhone after the acquisition of Intel baseband business,” the new note reads.
There’s also an expectation that Android smartphones with 5G support, some of which are already out, are going to come down in price. Kuo expects 2020 to bring pricing down to as low as $250. Those devices, he said, will only support the Sub-6 GHz spectrum.
A quick 5G crash course: it comes in two flavors. The Sub-6 GHz spectrum is faster than 4G but slower than the 5G most of these companies are talking about. The faster one is mmWave. As 5G rolls out, mmWave will be most common in densely populated urban areas, while Sub-6 GHz will exist more in rural areas where people are spread out.
It’s also worth noting that the Sub-6 GHz spectrum is reserved for U.S. government use. That’s going to change somewhat as 5G rolls out, but the U.S. 5G network is expected to focus on mmWave whereas the rest of the world is using Sub-6 GHz.
It’s confusing stuff that I’ll tell you up front I don’t fully understand myself. The distinction between the two doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion, however. As Kuo’s note says, it’s more about optics.
“But the key is that consumers will think that 5G is the necessary function in ,” the note reads. “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.”
Kuo also expects Apple as a company to get more on board with 5G because widespread adoption “could benefit Apple’s [augmented reality] ecosystem.” He also notes that Apple is treating iPhones that support only Sub-6 GHz versus iPhones that support both as two separate projects “even though they share the same form factor design.”
All of this context gets a little into the technical weeds, but the key takeaway from Kuo’s new note is there’s an expectation Apple is more on board with 5G than previously expected. What that ultimately means in practice remains to be seen, but Kuo’s track record when it comes to reading the way Apple winds are blowing is strong.