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Will the iPhone be the spark that 5G needs?Will the iPhone be the spark that 5G needs?

Operators and consumers are waiting on Apple to release its first 5G-compatible device.

Robert Clark

October 12, 2020

3 Min Read
Will the iPhone be the spark that 5G needs?

There's a lot riding on the unveiling of the Apple 5G iPhone on Tuesday.

While 5G is hardly in trouble, despite some high expectations, it does need a spark to kick-start the market.

At the very least, we can be fairly certain the 5G iPhones will drive subscriptions and data consumption.

Signs of that are evident in South Korea, where operators are tipped to boost their aggregate profit this quarter by 17%.

There's nothing comparable to the iPhone in generating excitement about wireless.

As usual, the Apple event is shrouded in secrecy, though we have some well-credentialed sources to guide us.

Analyst Kuo Ming-chi, who has deep contacts in Apple's supply chain and a strong track record of iPhone forecasts, predicts Apple will release four phones: two 6.1-inch models (the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro), a 5.8-inch iPhone mini and a 6.7-inch iPhone Pro Max.

He predicts the iPhone 12 will be the big seller, accounting for around 40% of shipments.

Apple's late arrival on the 5G scene means many of the world's 1 billion iPhone users are itching to upgrade.

In the US, where it has a 40% market share, demand for 5G devices is already climbing, Counterpoint Research numbers show.

Counterpoint says 5G accounted for 3% of smartphone sales in Q1 and 14% in August. With the iPhone set to debut, it predicts 5G smartphones to make up around 20% of total sales in 2020.

China has already clocked up 80 million 5G subs but is also hoping for a little Apple magic.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

The Chinese operators might be offering some of the world's lowest 5G prices and the most advanced B2B platforms. But after committing 180 billion yuan ($26.7 billion) to 5G this year, each has suffered a 20% slump in stock price and badly needs some return on effort.

Yet the biggest thing that the new iPhone brings won't be the 5G chip.

"Smartphone buyers tend to be more motivated by improved features such as screen size, better cameras and longer battery life," the Wall Street Journal reported, pointing to the much larger display introduced in 2014 that spurred Apple's best ever sales cycle.

Similarly, the triple-lens cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro last year also drove higher sales of the flagship device.

It is Apple's creativity and ability to grasp the possibilities of new technology that operators, consumers and investors are counting on. On past form, the 5G business is about to get a jolt.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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