iPhone may not get on the 5G bandwagon until 2020 at the earliest

If your excitement regarding 5G is already at a fever pitch — fueled by the endless promises of data speeds so fast our ears will bleed — but you are a staunch iPhone owner, the latest leaks have some bad (and entirely expected) news. Apple will apparently not release a 5G-capable iPhone until 2020 at the earliest.

The rumor comes from sources familiar with Apple’s plans, stating the company has decided to pass on 5G for the 2019 iPhone, and may even do the same for the 2020 model as well. This means owners of at least one, potentially two generations of future iPhone devices, 4G LTE will be the fastest possible connection available. Bloomberg, which reports on the rumor, says this may help rivals “win over consumers” in 2019 with 5G devices.

Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus, and many other manufacturers are expected to launch a 5G smartphone in 2019, with some coming before midyear. They will be the first phones to connect to a 5G network, leaving Apple behind in terms of connectivity. However, the first 5G networks will not cover wide areas, and will be restricted to certain cities around the world. While carriers in the U.S. are promising 5G will be operational in 2019, widespread coverage will likely not come until 2020 or later.

It’s entirely possible this is one of Apple’s reasons for not including the technology. It didn’t introduce a 4G LTE iPhone, or even a 3G iPhone until other manufacturers had already broken the new connectivity in, and the coverage was high enough that more consumers could take advantage of it. It’s therefore not a surprise it intends to do the same with 5G.

While 5G is a large generational jump, in that it’s significantly faster and more capable than 4G LTE, it brings with it some new challenges including power management, and may force some design changes on early devices too. As has been the case in the past, until Apple deems a feature worthy of integrating into an iPhone, it will simply ignore it. We may see faster 4G LTE modems inside next year’s iPhones to compensate for any differences, as carriers will continue to develop 4G networks for a while yet.

Apple may frustrate early adopters with a decision to ignore 5G until the next generation of data connectivity is ready (or at least more prepared) for prime time, but it arguably has never cared about early adopters in the past, with few long-term consequences.

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