While most smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei, LG, and OnePlus are striving to roll out a 5G-ready phone next year, we might not see a 5G-capable iPhone until 2020. This is hardly surprising, as Apple is not exactly an early adopter of fast cellular standards. However, since 5G isn’t going to be mainstream anytime soon, iPhone users won’t miss out on a lot.
Unlike most 2019 smartphones that would rely on Qualcomm’s X50 modem for 5G connectivity, Apple doesn’t really have that option, given the ongoing legal battle between the companies. On the other hand, Apple’s current chip supplier Intel is proving to be a bit of a slowpoke. According to insiders, Apple will be using Intel’s 5G-ready 10nm 8161 modem to support the 5G standard.
Apparently, Intel is developing the new silicon with a transition chipset called 8060 to test out 5G in iPhone. The 10nm fabrication technology will expectedly boost the speed and efficiency. However, the 10nm process is a good two years late already. Even though the interim CEO Bob Swan said last month that the chip is headed for mass production, it will most likely not be ready until next year.
Apple and Intel are apparently going through a rough patch right now because of the heat dissipation problems with the 8060 modem. Since carriers shifting to 5G will rely on the millimeter-wave spectrum in the beginning, cellular modems will be under a lot of duress because of high processing requirements and this will result in the production of excess heat. This can take a toll on the battery life of smartphones and so far, Intel hasn’t been able to figure out a workaround.
Although Intel is the only baseband chip supplier right now, Apple is reportedly in talks with MediaTek to take over if Intel continues to struggle. On the other hand, Qualcomm is at the forefront of the 5G technology and has already increased the production of its 5G-ready chipsets as OEMs gearing up to introduce their debut 5G devices next year.