Apple is expected to unveil its first 5G-enabled iPhones in September, but some analysts believe that models with support for ultra-fast mmWave technology will likely launch after sub-6GHz models due to production challenges and the global health crisis.
Apple is believed to be designing its own antenna-in-package or “AiP” module for mmWave iPhones, potentially contributing to the staggered rollout.
“Apart from the epidemic, the power consumption of the AiP module may also affect the launch schedule of the mmWave version,” analyst Jeff Pu wrote in a research note with Chinese investor firm GF Securities this week, suggesting that Apple’s custom antenna-in-package may be more of a drain on battery life than desired.
Likewise, Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Thomas O’Malley today said “recent data points” suggest that Apple may not be able to ship mmWave iPhones this year. This lines up with information shared by Susquehanna analyst Mehdi Hosseini, who previously said that mmWave iPhones could launch as late as January 2021.
Prior to the global health crisis, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was still on track to release both sub-6GHz and sub-6GHz-plus-mmWave iPhone models simultaneously in the second half of 2020, with shipments beginning in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter. Kuo has not indicated whether those plans have since changed.
Kuo said iPhone models with mmWave would be available in five markets, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom, adding that Apple may disable 5G functionality in countries that do not offer 5G service or have a shallow 5G penetration rate to reduce production costs.
As a refresher, mmWave is a set of 5G frequencies that promise ultra-fast speeds at short distances, making it best suited for dense urban areas. By comparison, sub-6GHz 5G is generally slower than mmWave, but the signals travel further, better serving suburban and rural areas.