Since the iPhone 12 rumor mill began churning, one detail has been consistent. The supply chain has said at least one 2020 iPhone model is likely to feature 5G compatibility. As the world begins embracing a new normal in the time of a pandemic, could Apple delay the launch of 5G phones until 2021? Probably not, and that's okay.
The state of 5G
There's no doubt 5G will eventually overtake 4G LTE as the wireless standard for mobile devices. How quickly this happens depends mostly on carriers who must spend the time and resources to add 5G architecture in the wild. Adding 5G hardware was always going to be an exhaustive, labor-intensive process. With COVID-19, there has almost certainly been a slowdown or delay for the companies involved. However, to what extent isn't known.
- From AndroidCentral: What is 5G? The next-gen wireless standard explained
Another ongoing issue is the 5G standard itself, or rather the lack thereof. In the United States, for example, the three biggest carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and the recently merged T-Mobile/Sprint) are still using different 5G formats. Around the world, similar situations are being reported. As more 5G-compatible handsets come online, the differences between the 5G solutions could confuse would-be customers to the point where they delay a purchase.
Should Apple move ahead with 5G?
We live in extraordinary times because of COVID-19 and the economic slowdown it has caused. Despite this, I think Apple will still bring 5G capabilities to at least one iPhone model this fall. If you believe serial leaker Jon Prosser, and his impressive track record on recent Apple rumors suggest that you probably should, every iPhone model released before the end of the year could feature 5G.
There's no downside for Apple to embrace 5G technology on its iPhones this year as opposed to 2021. And consumers have no reason to wait either.
Yes, many would-be iPhone 12 series buyers will live in areas without 5G. That's fine since 4G LTE will continue to be supported, regardless. Even with the restrictions, Apple can advertise "iPhone 12" and "5G" in big letters, just like its chief competitor, Samsung, has done with its 2020 Galaxy S20 lineup.
Also, it now looks like 5G won't add to the cost of the iPhone 12 handsets as many had feared earlier. Prosser (again) noted just last week that prices on this year's handsets will remain the same for Pro models. Though prices on non-Pro models could rise slightly, this has more to do with other new features such as OLED replacing LCD and better cameras.
The bottom line
No matter the events that are happening on the ground, expect Apple to introduce the world's first 5G iPhone before the end of the year. Though most of us won't be able to take advantage of the higher 5G speeds, at least on day one, we should celebrate its introduction on iPhones nonetheless.