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Apple may launch a 5G MacBook in late 2020, but we’re skeptical

MacOS Catalina Hands-on | Macbook Pro
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Apple is set to launch a new MacBook with 5G connectivity in 2020, making it Apple’s first laptop capable of reaching such speeds. That’s according to a new report from DigiTimes via 9to5Mac, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

First, the details: 9to5Mac reports that the new MacBooks, launching in the second half of 2020, will be kitted out with ceramic antennas rather than the usual metal components.

That’s notable because these antennas supposedly allow for vastly improved cellular reception and transmission speeds — up to twice the speeds of traditional metal antennas, according to DigiTimes.

The report noted that this improvement comes at a cost, though, with ceramic antennas costing as much as six times the price of their metal counterparts. That may not make much of a dent in the price you can expect to pay for a MacBook, though — Apple’s laptops are already sold at a premium price point and can likely absorb the added cost of these antennas.

So that’s not why we’re skeptical of this report. No, our reluctance to jump on board lies more with the apparent timing of these upcoming laptops.

That’s because DigiTimes says the ceramic antennas make it into MacBooks as early as 2020. That’s awfully soon when you consider that Apple is rumored to be launching a 5G iPhone in 2020 but nothing more — no other 5G Apple products have been rumored at all until now.

Apple only recently bought Intel’s model business, and will no doubt begin incorporating Intel’s tech into its own products — likely eventually including an Apple-designed modem — in the future. Apple’s recent ugly dispute with Qualcomm highlighted the perils of relying on third-party hardware, so we don’t doubt that snapping up Intel’s modem business is part of a plan to lead to a 5G MacBook modem in the future.

But buying a business like that (for $1 billion, no less) means you obviously want to use the tech it possesses. If Apple really is going to release a 5G MacBook next year, it’s probably done most of the planning and purchasing of the ceramic modems going into these devices. Why would it buy another business and disrupt its own plans this late in the day?

We’ve heard that Apple has reportedly set a target date of 2021 for its own 5G modem. That makes a lot more sense, as it allows more time to integrate Intel’s tech, patents, and staff into Apple’s own business plans.

So, if you’re holding out for a 5G-capable MacBook and think it’ll be arriving next year, don’t hold your breath. Put your money on a 2021 release date, and we think you’ll be much more on the mark.

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