AT&T Communications CEO Talks 6G, Claims iPhone 12 5G Launch Won't Spark Mass Upgrades

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Many analysts are expecting that the next generation of smartphones from Apple will represent a "mass upgrade" opportunity as customers look to upgrade older phones. The general idea is that many Apple customers have been sitting on the sidelines with older devices (i.e., first-generation iPhone SE, iPhone 8, etc.) waiting for the next big thing in smartphones to arrive: 5G connectivity.

However, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh is throwing some cold water on that notion, and instead says that the launch of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro families might not make a much bigger blip than previous years. "I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device," said McElfresh in an interview with CNBC. "But I wouldn't forecast that it's going to be a massive event. I also don't think it's going to be a nonevent."

He went on to explain that there are factors at play like economic uncertainties that will dampen demand for what was [previously] almost assuredly going to be a banner year for Apple; namely COVID-19. COVID-19 has killed millions around the globe, ravaged financial markets, and has put many people in the United States out of work as more people work from home and skip out on leisure activities. With less money to spend on their basic needs, why would someone plunk down $1,000+ on a new smartphone during these times?

We can't say that we blame McElfresh for this line of thinking. The rising cost of flagships is working directly against Americans that are being hit the hardest by COVID-19. So, while AT&T might not expect explosive sales for the iPhone 12/iPhone 12 Pro, Apple (and carriers) still stands to benefit with its cheaper offerings like the $399 iPhone SE.

At this point, Apple is expected to launch two baseline iPhone 12 models: a 5.4-inch iPhone 12 and a 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Max. The company is also planning to launch a 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max. All of the phones will be powered by Apple's new 5nm A14 Bionic SoC, which was first introduced in the latest iPad Air. All of the phones will include OLED displays and 5G connectivity, but there have been conflicting reports on which models will include 5G mmWave support.

In other network-related news, McElfresh also revealed that even though 5G has yet to become widely available across the United States for most Americans, AT&T engineers are already working on next-generation 6G technology. However, he added that it will still take "years" before the fruits of those labors will translate into operational networks with another significant leap in bandwidth, capacity, and decreased latency.