Qualcomm predicts strong 5G smartphone demand into 2021, hinting at Apple’s iPhone plans

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Qualcomm expects to sell a lot of modem chipsets for 5G mobiles - like the iPhone - in the next year.
Photo: Qualcomm

Chipmaker Qualcomm said Wednesday it expects the smartphone industry to ship 30% fewer mobile phones in the second quarter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but predicted the demand for 5G smartphones will accelerate from the second half of 2020 into the new year.

As a provider of modem chips to Apple, the predictions give further evidence that the Cupertino-based high-tech giant is on track to release it’s first 5G-ready iPhone lineup later this year simply based on Qualcomm’s estimates of product demand.

The San Diego-based chipmaker made the prediction after announcing second-quarter earnings results. Qualcomm said the coronavirus pandemic reduced demand for phones in the second quarter by some 21% compared to a year ago. It also warned of lower phone shipments in the current calendar quarter ending in June.

Qualcomm sold 129 million modems in its second quarter of 2020 and expects to sell between 125 to 145 million in the current quarter. Despite soft demand from January to March, it still expects to ship between 175 million and 225 million modems for 5G phones this year. Qualcomm originally estimated it would ship some 175 billion to 185 billion modems in 2020.

Apple plans for 5G iPhones come into focus

The numbers give a stronger indication that Apple’s rumored iPhone 12 family of mobile phones is still on track for release this fall, despite what might be delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the so-called “iPhone 12” appears to be a sure bet to be released this fall.

A number of iPhone 12 models currently face delays and may not become available in key markets until later in the year, a trusted source familiar with Apple’s plans revealed to Cult of Mac.

Options also could be limited in the United States and in other countries, where faster mmWave 5G technology is available. Elsewhere, customers may have a complete iPhone 12 lineup to choose from, but with slower 5G technology, according to the source.