Almost all the major players in the wireless industry encrypt to link their fortunes to 5G. Verizon will launch its 5G Wireless Broadband Service next month. Sprint and LG will have the first smartphone with next generation technology.
One company is untouched by hype: Apple.
It's a good bet that consumer electronics titanium, which unveiled three new iPhones and a new Apple Watch on Wednesday, will choose to put 5G in its next iPhone. And it's still a question of cell technology that can show up in an iPhone by 2020.
Apple likes to wait to get kinks out of new technologies before committing them to their products. It made good behind their Android colleagues by adopting mobile payments and wireless charging, and it was at least one generation in adopting 3G and 4G LTE mobile features. Most industry analysts expect the same team of 5G, even if technology comes true.
"5G comes a bit faster than expected," said Ian Fogg, an analyst for OpenSignal, which collects and analyzes data from mobile networks.
If Apple takes the slow road, it will stand as one of the few companies that do not immediately embrace 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. There has been a lot of hype around 5G, but the improved speed, response and ability to handle multiple devices outside the phone can change the way we live.
Given the thrill of 5G, it's easy to see why other companies, from wireless operators like Verizon and T-Mobile to telecoms decision makers like Nokia and phone makers like Samsung, jump in – this is another potential to wonder.
Apple has shot away from 5G, further proof that the company does not need help to generate its own hype, as if this week's launch of new, pricier iPhones was not a reminder.
The company was not available to comment.
Ten years ago, the original iPhone marked a big leap for smartphones. Its touchscreen interface and full browser feature, among other things, revolutionized what a smartphone could be.
Aside from the slow, slow mobile connection. When we sit on the edge of a 5G world, it's easy to forget that the original iPhone had a 2G radio. You felt the network sharpened together as a website loaded bit by bit.
At that time, other phones had already moved to the faster 3G network. Apple did not include the possibility of a year later with the second generation iPhone 3G. Similarly, the first iPhone was a 4G LTE connection 2013's iPhone 5, more than two years after Verizon unveiled its first Series 4G smartphone.
Last year, when Android smartphones went supersonically at Gigabit LTE speed, Apple stayed on the technology it introduced iPhone X and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
It was not until this year's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR that Apple cozied up to Gigabit LTE. (Want to know more about network technology? Check out this.) The company has decided to double down on access to new LTE technology, knocking on the mature 4G network over the 5G promise.
"I do not think they're in rush," says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Creative Strategies.
Why the slow adoption? Apple needs to consider what it packs into a smartphone and how many will benefit from each feature. Gigabit LTE only saw adoption in selected markets around the world, which probably did not justify the move there.
"Smartphone design is about the deviations," Fogg said in a report. "It's impossible to put everything in a small handheld device."
But the public's awareness of mobile technology and the need for a fast connection are far more prevalent than when these 3G and 4G networks emerged. So when competitors start talking about 5G, it may be a message that Apple will not be able to ignore because consumers understand the benefit better.
Apple's only advantage is that 5G distributions will be limited first, even in the United States, where carriers aggressively promise more cities with next-generation service. Experts see broader decisions by 2020 or later.
Not that Apple could jump into 5G early if it wanted to. Qualcomm isslated to appear in the first half of 2019. Apple discontinued using Qualcomm modems because of . Instead, it uses Intel modems.
"What complicates things is the current conflict with Qualcomm," said Ross Rubin, analyst for Reticle Research.
Intel, providing iPhone modems, says its 5G modem will be ready for commercial units in the second half of 2019, with wider distribution in 2020. However, the company refused to talk about specific customers.
With 5G networks launched in the US, Korea and China over the next few months, these operators will need compatible smartphones to talk about. Apple can face a situation where key global competitors like Samsung and Huawei highly exploit the benefits of 5G along their transport partners, which gives them an advantage. Huawei has already turned Apple off.
Yet, there are not too many analysts.
"I do not think there's a need for a 5G phone," said Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, adding that Apple is looking to go 5G in 2020 early.
Apple goes alone?
The second option is that Apple utilizes the generation switch in network technology and brings the modem internally.
It's not a ridiculous idea.
Apple already designs its own processor, the latter isthat runs the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. It has its own custom Bluetooth chip for faster connection to the AirPods and Beats headsets. When Apple took a firm grip on camera technology back in 2011, it went from a mediocre experience to one of the leading smartphone cameras in the industry, Fogg said.
It's hard to build a modem. Qualcomm has spent decades perfecting the craft, and that's why Intel has been fighting for years before winning Apple's business. But Apple has resources to lean into this area, and a deep dive would allow it to make a modem well tuned to its products.
"It gives them the opportunity to innovate on their own and do things differently," he said.
Just do not hold the breath of the 5G modem that appears anytime soon.
The story was originally published September 14th at. 5.00 PT.
Update, September 15th, 19.00 PT: To include additional background and analytical comments.
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