The first 5G-ready iPhone could still be two years away

The first 5G-ready iPhone will arrive in 2020, according to a new report, meaning networks could be live long before a compatible Apple device arrives on the scene.

According to a Fast Company report, Apple plans to use the Intel 8161 5G modem within its 2020 handsets. However, if Apple sticks to its traditional release schedule those handsets won’t be available until September or October 2018.

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Given there are hopes 5G services will go live in some territories as early as next year, it could mean a significant wait for iPhone loyalists seeking the fastest possible mobile data speeds.

A person familiar with Apple’s plans says Intel will be the sole provider of 5G modems for the iPhone when the time comes. The 8161 chip will be made using the 10-nanometer process, according to the report, boosting speed and efficiency due to the increased transistor density.

Intel plans to use another modem, called the 8160 in order to carry out testing and prototyping within the iPhones the report says.

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According to those familiar with the situation, all is not well with the Apple and Intel relationship. A source said Intel’s inability to solve head dissipation issues caused by the precursor 8160 chip, which also adversely affects battery life, could be causing friction.

However, Apple isn’t thought to be considering Qualcomm’s new X50 modem, which is likely to bring 5G-readiness to a wave of Android phones early in 2019. The possibility of MediaTek supplying 5G modems for iPhones is considered a “distant plan B” according to Face Company’s source.

While the report describes Apple’s decision as sensible, it’s questionable whether consumers will see it that way. With smartphones generally lacking exciting new features to provoke hardware upgrades and people generally keeping their phones for longer, 5G readiness is likely to be a popular feature for those mulling a purchase in 2019.

Even if speeds aren’t widely available until late 2020, when the report tips Apple will be launching its first 5G phones, those buying in the next 12-18 months will be doing so with an eye on the future. Naturally, Apple has not commented on the report.

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Will you be buying a 2019 iPhone if it is missing a 5G modem? Drop us a line @TrustedReviews on Twitter.