Shipments of mmWave 5G iPhones Could Be Much Weaker Than Expected This Year

The latest shipment estimates for Apple’s upcoming mmWave-enabled 5G iPhones are several million units lower than previously expected, which is intensifying competition among suppliers of AiP substrates, reports DigiTimes.

Shipments of mmWave-enabled 5G iPhones slated for launch later this year are estimated to reach only 15-20 million units in 2020 compared to a previous supply chain estimate of 30-40 million units, intensifying competition among Apple’s suppliers of FC-AiP substrates for the new phones, according to industry sources.

Apple is believed to be designing its own antenna-in-package or “AiP” module for mmWave iPhones, which use a set of 5G frequencies that promise ultra-fast speeds at short distances, making it best suited for dense urban areas. By contrast, sub-6GHz 5G is generally slower than mmWave, but the signals travel further, better serving suburban and rural areas.

According to DigiTimes, Apple’s AIP package is more cost-effective than previous designs, 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. To counter these challenges, Apple has diversified its supply chain for the modules to minimize risk.

The upcoming mmWave 5G iPhones will adopt more cost-effective FC-AiP process, with ASE Technology to package AiP modules, the sources said. But Apple reportedly has finalized three suppliers of BT-based FC-AiP substrates, including one based in Taiwan and two in South Korea, and they will together supply 30-50 million substrates, the sources said, adding one iPhone will require 2-3 AiP modules.

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 12” 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, but other analysts have said they believe the mmWave iPhones may not arrive this year because Apple’s custom antenna-in-package is proving to be more of a battery drain than the company would like.

Kuo has said 5G iPhone models with mmWave would be available in five markets, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom. He also believes Apple may disable 5G functionality in countries that do not offer 5G service or have a shallow 5G penetration rate to reduce production costs.

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Kuo: mmWave 5G iPhones Have ‘Potential Delay Risk,’ Production on 6.7-Inch iPhone Delayed to October

Some of Apple’s upcoming 5G iPhones could see a delay, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a note shared with investors. mmWave models, which will feature the fastest 5G functionality, have a “potential delay risk” and may launch outside of the normal timeline.


Production on the mmWave iPhone may be pushed back because of changes to the antenna package that were made in early April, and delays in qualification process services.

The mmWave ‌iPhone‌ will be pushed back because the design of the antenna in package (AiP) changes in early April. Additionally, the test lab is closed and can’t offer qualification process services. If the pandemic can’t be controlled well until July, then we think that the shipment allocation of mmWave iPhones will decrease to 5-10% from 15-20%.

Kuo says the rumored 6.1-inch and 5.4-inch iPhones will go into mass production in September, but mass production on the larger 6.7-inch ‌iPhone‌ will be delayed until October because of it has the “most complicated” design.

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More Analysts Expect mmWave iPhones to Launch Later Than Sub-6GHz Models

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.

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