You’ll still have to wait until 2020 for an iPhone with 5G

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iPhone XS crazy performance means speed at your fingertips.
Apple’s new deal with Qualcomm won’t speed up a 5G iPhone.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has settled it’s long-running legal dispute with Qualcomm. It almost certainly means that Qualcomm will again supply modem chips for the iPhone. But we won’t see a 5G iPhone any sooner.

A new report warns that Apple will still struggle to catch up with rivals like Samsung, which have already launched 5G handsets, and that the first iPhone with 5G still won’t arrive before 2020.

During Apple’s fight with Qualcomm, it attempted to source 5G chips from elsewhere. It looked like Intel would be its chosen supplier at one point, but after it missed several deadlines, Apple reportedly started looking elsewhere.

Huawei offered its support, but it is no longer required. Apple and Qualcomm are friends again, which means Qualcomm’s new 5G modems are likely destined for a future iPhone.

Will we see a 5G iPhone this year?

Qualcomm is already churning out 5G chips. You’ll find them inside Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 5G. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll see a 5G iPhone this year. A new report reiterates earlier warnings that we’ll have to wait until 2020 at the earliest.

“It is too late for Apple to use Qualcomm’s chips this year, but for 2020 it will purchase modem chips, including 5G modem chips, from the chipmaker for iPhones after finalizing the deal,” a source familiar with the matter told Nikkei.

Apple is still thought to be developing its own 5G modems despite the Qualcomm deal. But many sources have stated that those won’t be ready until at least 2021.

It’s not a deal-breaker

Apple is already behind in 5G, and the situation is only going to get worse as more Android vendors roll out new 5G devices before 2020. But that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for iPhone fans.

As Cult of Mac’s own Ed Hardy pointed out on Tuesday, 5G won’t be broadly available until around 2022. Some carriers are starting to offer 5G connectivity, but its reach is extremely limited for now.

What’s more, many of today’s “5G” networks aren’t much faster than 4G.

With that being the case, it doesn’t make sense for Apple to rush a 5G iPhone. It could increase the cost of the device, and very few will get a chance to take advantage of it in 2019.