In a quest to reclaim its crown as the world's most innovative tech company, Apple is mobilizing suppliers to produce its first ever 5G iPhones next year, with the three flagship models also set to include the most advanced mobile processors available, leading-edge screens and more, the Nikkei Asian Review has learned.
The upgraded iPhones, which Apple hopes will vault the company over Huawei's current position as the second-biggest smartphone maker, will also likely accelerate global carriers to roll out 5G telecoms infrastructure -- especially outside China, which has already invested heavily in the nascent technology.
Apple and Qualcomm signed a multiyear 5G agreement back in April and then in July Apple signed an agreement to acquire the majority of Intel's 5G modem business to further differentiate its products in the future. Apple may also be aiming to test their own 5G chip in 2021 by one account.
While the Nikkei report states that "Apple has been slow to embrace 5G; its iPhone 11 series this year only features 4G wireless technology," the fact is that Apple decided that Intel's 5G modems at the time wasn't up to their quality standards. That has nothing to do with "being slow to embrace 5G."
The Nikkei report goes on to state that "Apple plans to ship at least 80 million of the new 5G phones, one of the sources said. Rivals such as Samsung Electronics, the world's largest smartphone supplier, China's Huawei Technologies and second-tier competitors such as Oppo and Xiaomi, have already launched 5G phones." Though in reality, the 5G rollout, especially in South Korea, hasn't gone all that smoothly.. So the lack of a 5G modem is unlikely to be a problem for iPhone sales in the short term.
According to the Nikkei report, the 2020 iPhones are likely to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 5G Modem that is built on 7nm processes. It’s a multimode 5G modem, and the first to support 7 Gbps downlink. It also integrates 2G through to 5G, and so doesn’t require a separate modem to make use of, say, 4G LTE spectrum. Indeed, Qualcomm says it should operate on any key spectrum band, and in any region. You could learn more about the new X55 modem here. A broad overview can be found in the infographic below.
The Nikkei further notes that by 2025 China will have 600 million 5G subscribers, about 40% of the global total, the Financial Times has reported. So Apple will be ready to take their fight for 5G customers in China next year.
Eddie Han, senior industry analyst at Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute, stated for the report that the 5G "infrastructure is very costly and Apple's move to introduce all three iPhones next year with 5G will increase carriers' confidence to invest," heavily in the U.S. AT&T and Verizon want to push high-speed applications such as advanced gaming.
Apple's heft in consumer markets will likely help accelerate 5G use. The company typically ships between 75 and 80 million of its new iPhones each year. A total 206 million new 5G phones will be produced worldwide in 2020, MIC estimates, representing around 18% of all new smartphone sales.
The iPhones will also feature Apple's latest-generation processor, known as A14, that will use the world's most advanced 5-nanometer chip technology, as made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.. Currently, only Apple and Huawei have plans to use this chip production technology next year.
At least two of the three new phones will also have flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, currently the world's most cutting-edge display technology, which enables curved screens, better color contrast, and brighter screens.
In addition, Apple is developing a new 3D sensing rear-camera that can sense the environment and detect objects for applications such as augmented reality games, sources said. The iPhone was the first to introduce 3D sensing facial recognition, in its front camera, in 2017. For more on this story, read the full Nikkei report.
This year Apple has hit a home run with their new iPhone 11 line-up, especially with their iPhone 11 Pro Max. The iPhone 11's new Night mode camera feature is a real winner and we can only imagine where Apple could possibly take their camera for next year's models.
There's absolutely no doubt that Apple will continue to advance their cameras to new heights next year making the 2020 iPhones, with all of the other features planned, one of their most advanced iPhones ever made. And if the rumors pan out, Apple's smartglasses accessory could help the iPhone 12 rock the market like their iPhone 6 did back in 2014.