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It looks like Apple is ready to enter the 5G arms race, which is great news if you run a business from an iPhone

Caroline Frost , Business Insider US
 Aug 23, 2019, 12:14 PM
  • Apple is poised to join the 5G arms race after settling with Qualcomm and buying the majority of Intel's smartphone-modem business.
  • Respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will release three new iPhones in the second half of 2020, all of which will be powered by 5G.
  • Apple expert James Cordwell says this is good news for business owners and that 5G will inspire ideas we may not yet be able to imagine - just like 4G gave rise to Instagram.
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iPhone users can relax. It seems they won't have to give up their beloved devices in favour of 5G, with all the signs pointing to Apple joining their competitors in embracing the new technology.

Following Apple settling its differences with modem supplier Qualcomm, as well as its recent purchase of Intel's 5G smartphone-modem division, industry experts are confident that Apple's first 5G phones will appear in the second half of 2020. Respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts three new iPhones to appear then, all of which he says will support 5G.

Apple will be making its 5G debut nearly a year after Samsung and Huawei, but for the tech giant to be lagging behind rivals when it comes to embracing new tech is nothing new, according to Apple expert James Cordwell.

He explains: "When you look at the previous two generations, the original iPhone didn't have 3G when most existing handsets did, and there was a similar situation with 4G.

"There are a couple of reasons for that. I think that when it adopts a new technology standard, Apple needs to be confident that the supply chain can manufacture 100 to 150 million parts, which is how many they'll sell on an annual basis, so that requires a certain amount of maturity in the supply chain.

"It's an issue that Samsung and others don't have. They have a far more fragmented portfolio, so they might adopt 5G in their hero devices, but they'll sell fewer units relative to the iPhone.

"Apple will also be waiting until 5G is sufficiently rolled out in terms of the connectivity. They're going to be selling a 5G phone to a bunch of consumers who wouldn't necessarily be able to use it unless 5G is rolled out in their country as well, so they want that connectivity to be there as well."

Add to these general market considerations Apple's complicated history with Qualcomm and it's easy to see why the firm is late to the party. "Ever since they reconciled their differences with Qualcomm, the route to a 5G iPhone in 2020 became a lot simpler," explains Cordwell.

Once Apple does arrive, Cordwell expects it to be fully embraced by business owners. Currently, iPhone penetration sits at 35-40% of the UK population as a whole, Cordwell says, and it might be higher among business owners. "In fact, I would maybe guess business owners might skew towards a slightly higher figure," Cordwell says.

So that's a lot of potential customers for this new generation of phones. With 5G's speed, reliability, and almost zero latency promising to transform everything from online gaming to autonomous vehicles, what can people expect from Apple in particular?

Cordwell points out that the new technology will inspire ideas we may not yet be able to imagine. "If we look at something like Instagram," he says, "4G made it simple to upload photos or video to a network, and equally to consume them, which brought a completely new way for businesses to reach out to customers.

"If history is a guide, once a tool is out there in the market, creative people come up with ways to utilise that technology, and that brings consumer and business benefits.

"Apple's model has always been to facilitate that via their app store as well, so I would be fully expecting to see new use cases emerging with 5G and there will be opportunities for entrepreneurs and other business owners as a big part of that."

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