Apple is reportedly putting on hold any plans to roll out an iPhone that works with 5G until 2020, and possibly even longer.
Bloomberg, citing people familiar with its plans, reported that Apple is betting that consumers won’t immediately jump in and embrace 5G, given that it correctly predicted the first devices to support 5G would have problems, including spotty coverage. But backers of 5G told Bloomberg that Apple’s delay could be risky, since 5G is expected to bring new types of mobile computing. It also presents a situation in which rivals, including Samsung Electronics, can steal market share from Apple as it delays a 5G-supported smartphone.
Bloomberg noted that with 3G and 4G, Apple waited as long as a year before deploying smartphones that worked on the new networks. The report noted that the decision this time around could also be because Apple is fighting with Qualcomm, which is the leader in 5G mobile semiconductors. Intel, Apple’s new partner, won’t have the chips ready to support 5G for the 2019 iPhones, reported Bloomberg.
“Apple has always been a laggard in cellular technology,” said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner, in the Bloomberg report. “They weren’t impacted in the past, but 5G is going to be much easier to market. But if they wait beyond 2020, then I think they’ll be impacted.”
Bloomberg noted that Apple is also facing more pressure to maintain its existing iPhone base, given reports that suppliers are reducing forecasts for the models that were rolled out in September due to a lack of sales. While the smartphone market has been in a decline on a global basis for four quarters in a row, close to 60 percent of Apple’s revenue still comes from the iPhone. At the same time that Apple is in a 5G retreat, Verizon Communications and AT&T are placing a priority on marketing 5G phones to get customers to move to the speedier network sooner.