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Is Apple Set to Lose the 5G Game?

A whole bunch of smartphone manufacturers launched 5G phones at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year. They are all bulky and on the pricey side. Well, that’s the price for new technology.

In the US, at least two dozen smartphone brands, including the likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, and others, have announced plans to launch a 5G phone by the end of this year. Telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T have already launched 5G wireless services in a select few cities across the country on a trial basis and are eagerly awaiting phones.

Cleary, the rush towards 5G has been massive. Yet, Apple, which occupies a market share of 47% in the US smartphone industry, is playing the wait-and-see-game. Which matches Apple’s m.o.

Apple’s counter-intuitive decision has attracted a sharp response from other brands. Most 5G phones were previously expected to hit the market in the later half of the year. However, brands like Motorola and LG are accelerating their 5G splash in a bid to emerge as the pioneers and chip away at the market share of their competition, mainly Apple’s iPhones.

Threat to Apple

Although 2019 will see the first 5G phones hit the market, they will not deliver the game-changing experience that we have come to expect from them. The reason is simple. The wireless infrastructure is simply not there.

As telecom companies expand their 5G network coverage across the length and breadth of the country, Neil Anderson, Director – WWT, believes that it will likely be 3-5 years before we have broad coverage in the US. In 2019, the consumers will be able to use 5G only in a handful of urban areas. But, 2020 will be the year when 5G will start to make its impact felt. Even if the wireless providers expand their coverage to the biggest cities in the country, the users will not be able to use uninterrupted 5G connectivity.

If Apple fails to whip out a 5G handset by 2020, then it might suffer a major blow to its dominance. Now with Intel got out of the 5G modem game, Apple’s supplier is also everyone else’s supplier.

Does Apple Care?

Yes, it does. Apple knows that 5G transform the way consumers use their smartphones and that may end up costing a huge chunk of its loyal customers. However, Apple’s bitter legal battle with Qualcomm posed another challenge. For over two years, Apple has been engaged in legal battles with Qualcomm, the largest maker of 5G chips, in multiple countries across the world. This complicated the matters for Apple.

Perhaps, the decision-makers at Apple have realized that the battle is simply not worth the pummeling they would receive from their competition if they do not ride the 5G wave. That’s why, on April 16, the two companies announced that they have reached a mutual understanding and are dropping the lawsuits. Early reports indicate that the agreement favors Qualcomm, which is a clear sign that Apple is ready to make big concessions not to be a laggard in the 5G roll out.

Apple will most definitely lose the bragging rights on the first 5G phones. However, things are definitely looking good for the iPhone fans, as there is a very real possibility that Apple announces 5G-enabled phones by the end of this year.