Apple's 5G iPhone might not arrive until 2021, analyst warns

Apple's 5G iPhone might not arrive until 2021, analyst warns
The iPhone XS and XS Max

Apple is running out of options for 5G modems and today UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri has released a report in which he says there is an increasing likelihood that Apple may not deliver a 5G iPhone until 2021. 

Qualcomm and Intel's modems might not be available

In the perfect scenario, Apple would have the option of purchasing 5G modems from as many as five separate suppliers. But as we will soon explain, there’s actually no clear choice for Apple, which is the primary argument Arcuri uses in his report.

The most obvious choice for Apple at the moment would be its current modem supplier, Intel. The American company provides modems for older iPhone models in addition to the newer iPhone XS and iPhone XR. This situation is unlikely to change in the near future but, as it turns out, Intel is quite far behind when it comes to 5G.

The company has stated in the past that it’ll deliver its first 5G modem by the first half of 2020, Arcuri, however, believes that it won’t meet the deadline, thus forcing the Cupertino giant to stick with 4G LTE for yet another year. 

Another potential candidate for 5G modems is Qualcomm, who Apple relied heavily on in the past. As things stand, the two companies are locked in a bitter legal battle and the situation may not improve in time for Apple’s 2020 iPhone launch. This doesn’t necessarily mean Qualcomm won’t be willing to supply Apple with modems next year, but it did refuse to provide modems for the iPhone XS and iPhone XR in 2018. 

Samsung, Huawei, and MediaTek could be off the table too

Moving away from existing suppliers, the next big company Apple could run to is Samsung. The latter already supplies OLED displays for iPhones, so adding modems into the mix shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.

Samsung has mobile 5G ambitions of its own and, currently, the company’s supply of modems is reserved for its own smartphones. Pretty soon, the South Korean giant will release the Galaxy S10 5G in a number of global markets, and later this year a 5G Galaxy Note 10 may be added to the mix. 

The 2020 Galaxy S11 and Galaxy Note 11 should also support 5G networks as standard, meaning Samsung is going to need every 5G modem it can produce.

Next up on Apple’s potential list of suppliers is Huawei, although this kind of deal will probably never happen as the US government isn’t the biggest fan of the latter. Another potential supplier is MediaTek, but its modems just aren’t up to Apple’s standards yet.

Can Apple save itself from a 5G iPhone delay?

As you can see, if Intel fails to meet its deadline Apple is left with no alternative supplier for 5G modems. But if previous reports are anything to go by, the company could potentially save itself.

Although Apple is yet to confirm such plans, reports from late last year revealed that Apple is actively developing a 5G modem of its own. The Cupertino giant’s proprietary modem was said to be on track for a release in 2021, in time for that year’s iPhone lineup. But considering Apple’s potential lack of suppliers for 2020, the company may push its teams to ready the product for next year’s flagships. 

If Apple fails to launch a 5G iPhone in 2020, UBS believes Apple’s near-term iPhone sales could see a slight drop. Ultimately, though, the firm believes Apple is preparing for the worst and expects the company’s large install base and services initiatives to minimize the financial impact.



1. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

After seeing what has happened so far, I do think that Qualcomm will end up paying Apple something close to the $27 billion that Apple has demanded, after all, but it is sort of satisfying to see Apple take a decent jab back from Qualcomm by not getting their 5G modems. And either nothing else seems to live up to their standards (MediaTek), the modem they need just hasn't been developed yet (Intel), or there just isn't enough from anybody else to go around for the right price (Samsung). Poetic justice, indeed! Regardless of how cruel the feeding hand may have been, this is what happens when you bite the hand that feeds you...

10. Marcwand3l

Posts: 446; Member since: May 08, 2017

LoL why would Qualcomm pay apple 27 billion dollars? That's ridiculous.

13. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

They probably will not pay the full $27 billion, but Apple will do everything they can, both decent and otherwise, to leverage their power against Qualcomm, and based on the treatment that both Apple and Qualcomm have gotten so far, I do think Apple will win overall... they will probably end up settling out of court for a large sum of money between a few billion and the full 27 billion - unless Apple really wants to drag Qualcomm through the mud as an example to all who would oppose them, and buries them in the legal system. That is practically just as probable, depending on just how good (or biased) a treatment Apple gets in the courts. If that does happen so, then I don't think that Qualcomm will have much business left in their business when Apple has finished with them.

11. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

I'd like to see Apple squirm but 5G is really a non-issue for a few more years. It will barely dent their sales even if it comes a little later. The real benefits of 5G (and large coverage) won't be felt for 4-5 years.

12. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Sadly enough, I'm sure you are right about that. I won't be looking for a 5G phone myself for at least another couple of devices as long as I can get two years apiece out of the next couple. I do look at today's flagships in order to try to gauge what new technologies will be offered in budget smartphones in the next three to five years, and 5G is one of those emerging technologies I am keeping track of, but I do not expect to be buying a 5G phone for some time yet.

2. User123456789

Posts: 1020; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Will lack of 5G be a con for the review score? For few android I am sure it will.

3. lyndon420

Posts: 6836; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Curious...will PA post an article on a current topic in the news (that's a couple days old now btw) about how you can retrieve your photos/data from your water damaged iPhone (even when apple employees say it's impossible)?? It cast apple in a fairly negative light...trying to force new device sales rather than give repair options.

4. BuffaloSouce unregistered

If it's already out, they why does it need to be posted here?

8. lyndon420

Posts: 6836; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Why not? I thought it was a pretty big deal.

5. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1579; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

They were late with 4G LTE and when it arrived it was significantly slower than competing handsets at the time, their sheep didn't care. They could never release 5G and the sheep would believe they don't need it.

6. Donbenie

Posts: 260; Member since: Aug 04, 2013

It's Apple,they would have you believe they reinvented 5G by 2021..

7. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

I actually respect this. 2021 is probably when 5g will be getting good anyway

9. Marcwand3l

Posts: 446; Member since: May 08, 2017

"Although Apple is yet to confirm such plans, reports from late last year revealed that Apple is actively developing a 5G modem of its own. The Cupertino giant’s proprietary modem was said to be on track for a release in 2021" LoL a couple a months ago rumours were saying that apple just started the work on making a 5G modem. I highly doubt they would be able to release it in 2021, more like 2023.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.