According to a new report from Reuters, chipmaker Intel will not release a 5G smartphone modem in a consumer-level device until 2020. This information comes directly from Intel, via a recent media event in California.
Apple uses Intel modems exclusively in the most recent crop of iPhones — the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR. If Apple is planning to use an Intel modem in its eventual 5G iPhone, that means we won’t see that device until 2020.
This would put Apple at least a year behind Android when it comes to 5G smartphones. If the 5G iPhone launches in September next year — the usual month of new iPhone launches — it would be close to 18 months behind.
Granted, there are multiple ways Apple could avoid this. The most obvious is for the company to not use an Intel modem in a 5G iPhone. However, since Qualcomm refused to provide chips for the latest round of iPhones due to the ongoing legal battles between the two companies, that doesn’t leave Apple many viable options of where to turn.
There is also the possibility that Apple could create its own 5G modem. However, that seems unlikely because we only just recently heard rumors about Apple taking in-house modem development more seriously.
Whatever the case, 5G Android phones are going to start coming at a relentless pace, starting in only a few days at Mobile World Congress. By the middle of this year, almost every major device manufacturer will have released or revealed its 5G smartphone.
It would be very strange if Apple didn’t release its own 5G iPhone until a year after this Android deluge.
Intel did clarify that it will have commercial-grade 5G products deployed before the end of this year, but no consumer-level products.