It's official: the iPhone 11
does not support 5G connectivity.
Is that okay and doesn't it mean that Apple is behind the pack?
There are two ways to look at this:
- yes, it's okay because 5G is available in very, very few locations in the US. 5G availability is measured in blocks, not in neighborhoods, and even standing close to a tree might mean you will lose signal.
- no, it's not okay because even though there is no 5G infrastructure in the US yet, people are now holding on to their phones for an average of around 3 years, enough time for that 5G build-out to happen and for those consumers to feel left out. Also, low-band 5G is now already available in a number of countries outside the US, where you get a lot better coverage, and the iPhone does not support those new bands either.
New iPhones missing 5G: It's okay if...
You won't really miss 5G if you live in the United States
Once you know the general argument, you can see if the new iPhones missing 5G connectivity matters to you. First and foremost, if you live in the US, 5G coverage is so limited that you really would not miss it. Our bet is that it would take at least a year to have somewhat decent 5G coverage and even then it will be limited to a few downtown areas and gathering places like stadiums or at concerts. All US carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) are building out a 5G network based mostly on mmWave frequencies right now, a kind of technology that simply is not capable to travel far and requires a lot of individual towers to function over short distances.
Also, 5G networks are much faster, but 4G LTE is already fast enough for many people, and unless you are amongst those power users that really need it, you probably will not appreciate the difference that much.
New iPhones missing 5G: It's not okay if...
Mostly, if you live in a country where you truly have wide 5G coverage
Missing 5G on the latest iPhones is a bigger problem if you live or travel to a European country, where there are quite big 5G networks based on a different technology that uses frequencies that don't allow the super high speeds that you will see with mmWave in the US, but that travel further and provide better coverage.
Countries like Switzerland or Austria for example now have very good 5G coverage across the big cities and users there would definitely see how other devices with 5G connectivity offer higher speeds.
When is 5G coming to iPhones?
Next year is a good guess
Just a few days ago, we saw Chinese phone maker Huawei announce its first chip with 5G connectivity built into it, the Kirin 990, but it's worth remembering that chip does not support mmWave bands that are commonly used in US 5G networks.
And when you see existing devices like the Galaxy S10+
5G, you see that those phones are first, larger, and second, way more expensive.
Apple is traditionally not a company that wants to be the first one to adopt a new technology and considering that 5G might require a much more expensive phone, it might have actually made a reasonable decision to not rush it. We do, however, expect the 2020 series of iPhones to come with 5G support and usher us into that new era of faster speeds.