If you’re thinking about picking up a new iPhone, it may be a smart choice to hold off for a year or two – if you can. There’s one very good reason to wait, and it’s all about 5G.
5G is a new wireless standard that’s likely to change how data is sent to and from cell towers in a big way. There are a lot of new specifics, but essentially 5G sends a direct signal from a main tower to smaller cells throughout an area. These cells, in turn, will broadcast a powerful, limited signal to nearby devices. It’s a very different technology than 4G – it’s much faster, and has the potential to revolutionize the Internet of Things and the availability of wireless internet across the country.
So, yes, you absolutely want 5G as soon as you can get it. The problem is that this is going to take a while, especially for iPhones, which tend to be a little slow to pick up the latest wireless technology.
If you scan the headlines, you’ll see that some providers are already offering 5G services, which may give the wrong impression about its current availability. In fact, AT&T’s “5G E” is a blatant mischaracterization of a technology that’s basically the same as 4G with a new marketing label slapped on it.
Verizon is also trying out 5G services in selected areas as well, but they are using a proprietary technology to mimic 5G, with promises that they’ll upgrade to the official 5G standard in time.
The reason for these ploys is that 5G just isn’t ready yet. Broad requirements have been released, but providers and manufacturers are still busy working on how best to deliver 5G in the real world – not to mention, update all of the hardware at cell phone towers and set up the new, smaller base antennas around the area. It’s a big project, and one that will take time to roll out.
But here’s the important part regarding buying a new iPhone: iPhones and other mobile devices need to be compatible with 5G, too, which isn’t something you can just update (this also applies to other devices in general, like routers, but for 5G it’s particularly important that phones get updated). When such an important new technology comes out, manufacturers usually rush to update their products to meet the cutting-edge standard. Except Apple.
Apple has a habit of waiting for a year or so after the standard has been adopted before releasing an iPhone that complies with it. This could be due to internal scheduling, manufacturing decisions, or other reasons – but it happened with 3G and 4G, and it’s likely to happen again.
We do know that Intel is working on a 5G chip that’s compatible with iPhone, and that it’s likely to be ready by the end of 2019. That means that a 5G compatible iPhone is likely to come out in 2020 at the earliest. Since 5G is such a major upgrade, we recommend holding off on a big iPhone purchase if possible, you likely won’t regret it.