Apple’s First 5G iPhone Reportedly Set For Late 2020 Release With Intel Modem

The first 5G networks in the United States are lighting up as we close out 2018, and should begin to slowly spread across the country in 2019. At the same time, smartphone manufacturers are gearing up for the 5G revolution, with a number of players expected to launch 5G smartphones during Q1 2019.

One major player that won't have a 5G smartphone during 2019 and for the majority of 2020 is Apple. According to a new report from Fast Company, Apple's first 5G iPhone won't arrive until 2020, a little under two years from now. As you may recall, Apple typically launches its flagship iPhones in September, which means that the soonest that we could see a 5G iPhone would be early September 2020.

Intel 5G Modem

According to the report, the 5G iPhone will be using Intel's 8161 5G modem, which will be built on the company's 10nm lines. Given Apple's current legal battles with Qualcomm, Intel is the sole supplier of 4G LTE modems for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. That Intel-exclusive partnership will continue with the 5G iPhone.

However, not all is well between the two tech giants according to the report. Apple is apparently unimpressed with Intel's progress on heat dissipation on prototype 8060 modem chips that are currently in testing. 5G modems, which will rely on millimeter-wave signals from major carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T, at this stage are experiencing much greater thermal output than is customary with current 4G LTE modems. There are also concerns about higher power draw from the current 5G modem prototypes.

Apple iPhone Xs line up front face 09122018

According to sources familiar with the situation, Apple isn't quite ready to come crawling back to Qualcomm as a supplier for its 5G needs, so it’s likely that Apple and Intel engineers will be able to solve their heat/power issues within the next year and a half. If that doesn't work out, Apple is said to have a backup plan of opting for MediaTek as a 5G modem supplier.

Although 2020 seems like a relatively late entry into the 5G market for Apple, we also have to consider that first-generation 5G smartphones will probably be power-hungry beasts and that network coverage will likely be spotty at best. By the time late 2020 rolls around, the 5G coverage area should be greatly expanded across the United States and many of the initial teething bugs will have been worked out.