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Wednesday, 03 July 2019 23:24

Lack of 5G no problem for Apple and its iPhones this year Featured

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With Apple the most profitable smartphone, tablet, computing and technology company around, lame claims that Apple is in trouble because it won't have a 5G phone this year should be hung up on.

I just read an interesting article about how Apple's expected lack of a 5G iPhone until its September 2020 iPhones debut is some kind of big problem for the company.

In the article, we're told about the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung's most premium smartphone at the moment, LG's V50 ThinQ 5G which can impressively clip on a second screen to produce a type of foldable phone that doesn't actually fold the screen, and the OPPO Reno 5G with its notchless screen and pop-up camera. 

All three are 5G models, all three run Android, all three cost more than 4G counterparts, all three have some great features and benefits not available on iPhones, all three only work on 5G networks which are pinpricks compared to 4G and 3G coverage, and depending on the Telstra plan you're on, you might have to pay extra to access the 5G part of the network.

Look, if you're an Android enthusiast, and are in the market for a new smartphone, then any of the three phones listed above would be great choices for you.

We'll also see more 5G phones to come later this year and then plenty more next year (which is when any 5G iPhone is due) from companies like Motorola, Huawei, Google with its Pixel models. Even companies like Kogan are sure to introduce budget models with 5G.

The problem with 5G at the moment is coverage. It was the same story with 4G phones – we saw Samsung and others race to introduce 4G smartphones a year or two before Apple introduced them.

This helped Samsung and others to claim 4G on a spec sheet, but at the time, 4G network coverage was very limited and it took time to grow.

Once coverage was a lot more widely available, Apple launched a 4G iPhone that users could buy and take real advantage of 4G networks.

But even 4G isn't everywhere in Australia in 2019 – plenty of people who have 4G phones notice they drop to 3G coverage in buildings, in the CBD, on public transport, in rural and regional areas, or even just walking down the street!

It will be the same story with 5G networks for quite some time. 5G can transmit tons more data at the same time than 4G or 3G networks, but the range of a 5G tower is much shorter than that of a 4G or 3G signal.

This means many more 5G towers are required to be installed than is the case with 4G or 3G, and to build out a really big 5G network will take years – and wil cost a lot.

That's why 5G coverage is so comparatively limited at the moment, and why, at least on some of Telstra's plans, it costs more to access. 

By September 2020, when Apple is expected to introduce 5G iPhones, not only will they be using the newest 5G modems at the time, which will presumably be better and faster than the 5G modems used in 2019 smartphones, but the coverage area will be a lot more than it is now.

That means second-generation (or better) 5G modem technology rather than the first generation 5G modems in today's models, but even then, 5G coverage will still likely be much less in coverage areas than 4G or 3G, given that 5G will be being installed through to 2025 and beyond.

Meanwhile, we are told of concerns that Apple isn't innovating anymore, but this flies in the face of the wildly successful Apple Watch, AirPods in their first and now second generations, the very cool PowerBeats Pro wireless headphones, iPad Pros, the 2019 iPad Air and iPad mini, let alone the popular and very affordable entry level 9.7-inch iPad, the new Mac Pro, existing MacBooks, and the mind-blowingly good iOS 13, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, HomePod OS and macOS 10.15 Catalina operating system upgrades now in beta and due in September, and plenty more.

Yes, it's easy to write a clickbait article on why Apple is doomed because it doesn't have the 5G smartphones that its competitors have, but all of this happened before with 4G iPhones, and even 3G iPhones (as the original iPhone launched with 2G in a world of 3G models) - and we only need to look at the well over billion-plus iOS users and Apple's towering profits to see that the people have voted with their hearts, minds and wallets over spec sheet feature ticks.

Then there's the story from CNET which gives an excellent overview of 5G, including the fact that a 5G data allocation could be wiped out in less than an hour. 

Gizmodo reported that "5G Is Going to Be an Incredibly Tough Sell in 2019" while even the BBC ran out of mobile data shortly before a 5G broadcast

Look, there's absolutely no question that 5G is the future. But it's also true to note that, within the decade, we'll have 6G, then 7G after that, and maybe we'll have teleportation by then, too.

Just be aware that, while the latest 5G smartphones are very, very cool, and have some stand-out features, they're not cheap, and they'll be last year's models in 2020 with Samsung S11 5G, LG V60 and Oppo Reno II's to come next year, with plenty more 5G smartphones at all price points, greater coverage, and 5G iPhones coming in 2020, too.

Buy one of the new 5G models now if you want, they're finally available, and 5G coverage, while microscopic, is finally here too.

However, unless you have money to burn, and huge data plans to burn through too, only you can make the decision as to whether a 5G smartphone is in your future this year, or next, or the year after, along with which operating system, app library, security and privacy stances, accessory selection and more is the right one for you.

Happy mobile computing – whatever your decision!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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