When Apple launches its first 5G-enabled iPhones, which are expected to arrive later this year, it’s believed every new model will support both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G bands. But 2021 may offer a different strategy.
According to a new preliminary report from DigiTimes (via MacRumors), Apple is going to introduce the 2020 iPhones with both 5G bands on board each new model. That means you can expect to find both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G technology supported on the base iPhone 12 all the way up to the iPhone 12 Pro Max (even though the launch may be staggered), if this rumor is true. Carriers are rolling out 5G technologies at different paces, with availability of both technologies varying per market and per carrier, so supporting both for an initial rollout makes sense.
However, according to the report, Apple will be taking a closer look at markets all around the globe, especially as 5G availability matures, and weigh which 2021 iPhone models should be outfitted with each 5G technology. This information was reportedly shared by “industry sources” out of Taiwan:
Apple’s 2020 series of iPhones will work on both sub-6GHz and millimeter wave 5G networks, and the vendor is considering introducing its iPhones supporting either mmWave or sub-6GHz for specific markets next year, according to industry sources in Taiwan.
Basically, if a market does not support mmWave 5G technologies, Apple will not introduce an iPhone that supports mmWave 5G technologies in that region. This will save Apple some money in regards to modems, but if this does pan out it means there will be quite a few SKUs for iPhone models starting next year.
It’s an interesting move compared to what we’re expecting to see this year, too. As you’ve probably heard by now, there are many people out there, many of them analysts, who believe that while the iPhone 12 lineup will support both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G technologies, Apple will simply disable one technology or another in markets where that tech is not supported. So if a region doesn’t support mmWave? Turn that radio off in the iPhone 12 sold there. And if a market doesn’t support 5G at all, Apple can disable both in the iPhone 12 sold there.
This report indicates Apple will change the hardware within the 2021 iPhone lineup, rather than simply disabling the hardware under the hood.
Either plan makes sense, but it will ultimately come down to costs for Apple. And it’s not like the iPhone is a stranger to a variety of different SKUs correlating to different hardware elements, as Apple has offered some iPhones with different chips under the hood, despite being in the same family.
How do you think Apple should handle 5G availability with its iPhone lineup? Should the company include the hardware that supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave, and simply disable the hardware in markets where the technology is not supported? Or should Apple tweak the hardware design so that the technology support isn’t included out of the box?