Why 5G will make the iPhone 12 so expensive

Apple (Image credit: Apple)

This fall's iPhone lineup is likely to include at least one handset that offers 5G compatibility. We don't yet know how much a 5G handset will cost. However, its inclusion probably means a slight increase over non-5G models, and here's why.

What is 5G?

As we previously noted, 5G is the name for the next-generation of wireless networks and encompasses several technologies and applications. To date, at least in the United States, two dueling 5G technologies are currently being implemented among the largest carriers, high-band millimeter wave (mmWave), and sub-6 mid-bands. Both techniques should increase the average speed over 4G LTE. However, neither works with the other.


Apple will likely introduce at least one 5G-compatible iPhone that includes both technologies. This decision alone could slightly increase the cost of the handset. Then there are the infrastructure costs to consider. Although sub-6 is deployable alongside existing LTE networks, mmWave is not. And guess who ultimately pays for the new towers? That's right, first adopters like yourself!

For proof, iPhone prices are likely to rise, look no further than Samsung, which recently introduced three Galaxy S20 phones. Each is more expensive than previous Galaxy models, in large part because of the 5G support. The entry-level Samsung Galaxy S20 5G is $100 more than last year's Galaxy S10 flagship. The S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, meanwhile, start at $1,199 and $1,399, respectively.

What Apple could do

Rumors suggest the 2020/2021 iPhone lineup will include four new handsets versus the three iPhone 11 models Apple introduced in 2019. The so-called "iPhone 12" lineup is likely to include a 5.4-inch iPhone 12, 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Max, 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro, and 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Let's assume Apple only brings 5G compatibility to the Pro series this year and, in doing so, adds a $100 premium to the price. Compared to the current iPhone 11 Pro lineup, the starting prices could look as follows:

  • iPhone 12 Pro, $1,099 versus $999 for the iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max, $1,199 versus $1,099 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max

Though, if Samsung's S20 lineup proves to be successful, it's possible we may see the price go even higher.

Is it worth it?

Christine Chan does a great job at thoroughly answering the question of whether buying a mobile device with 5G is necessary, at least in 2020. Buyers will ultimately weigh several factors when it comes time to buy a new iPhone. For most would-be buyers, I don't expect 5G compatibility to be the main factor, however.

At 6.7-inches diagonally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max would become the biggest Apple handset to date, surpassing the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max for that distinction. The larger screen could also mean more RAM versus other 2020 handsets. These two reasons alone could weigh much more heavily in the decision-making process.

Time will tell but questions continue

We should hear more about Apple's fall plans in the coming weeks as more specific rumors about this year's lineup begin to leak. Apple's likely to announce the new models in early September.

Do you have any questions about this year's iPhone 12 lineup and 5G? Let us know in the comments below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.