Apple plots radical new 5G iPhone future but 2019 still a long shot

It’s no great secret that the launch of 5G is set to change the face of the mobile world next year, but the big question is whether Apple’s 2019 iPhones will support the next-gen network technology. Recent rumours suggest not, but new job listings from the Cupertino-baed firm offers a glimmer of hope.

As first spied by The Information, Apple is currently hiring for a pair of cellular modem systems architects, while a handful of other vacant engineering positions at the company require the design and development of a layer 1 cellular PHY chip – fancy talk for physical mobile networking hardware.

The news is the clearest sign yet that Apple ultimately plans to bring modem chip development in-house, which would give it end-to-end control of its A-series processors.

The question then is why – and why now?

As has been widely reported, the firm has fallen out with leading semiconductor outfit Qualcomm, leaving it beholden to Intel for the modems of its SoCs for at least another generation or two.

Intel, however, isn’t quite as bleeding-edge as Qualcomm when it comes to 5G adoption. While the recently announced Snapdragon 855 SoC is confirmed to be 5G-ready and is expected to feature on a number of top Android flagships, including certain models of the Galaxy S10, it’s understood that Intel won’t have a 5G modem ready for in time for the iPhone 11, leaving Apple a year behind its rivals at best.

While the Tim Cook-led company is usually content to bide its time when introducing major new technologies to their products (previous generations of iPhones have lagged behind their Android brethren in adopting 4G and 3G, for instance), the leap to 5G is regarded as such a big one that the firm can’t be too happy to twiddle its thumbs.

The risk for Apple is that it looks a bit tired by the end of 2019 compared to its competitors, many of whom won’t just be launching 5G phones next year but also foldable ones, with the Galaxy X probably the biggest name to watch for now.

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So while the recently discovered job listings are unlikely to bear consumer fruit next year, they should at least give Apple fans an indication that the company has learnt from past mistakes and intends to fully take its destiny in its own hands going forward, lest it miss out on another big future mobile development.

Will you still buy an iPhone in 2019, even without 5G? Let us know @TrustedReviews.