Like many people, I was surprised by the attention Apple gave to 5G when it launched the iPhone 12 series last week. But I don’t think Apple was wrong; he did the right thing.
As it stands today, 5G doesn’t drastically change the way you use or interact with your smartphone. Of course, you get a 300 Mbps downlink instead of 100 Mbps over LTE. Maybe you get 1 Gbps or faster. But most of the time, for most people, it’s not something that you notice.
Right now, it’s hard to argue that 5G, all in all, is a much better experience than 4G. A faster downlink is great, but the user experience is more subtle and multi-layered than that.
Why then should a company that focuses on user experience make such a big deal with 5G?
I think there are two related things:
The first part of the answer is that Apple knows 5G is going to get better ?? maybe quite quickly ?? over the next few years. With better networks, the move to standalone 5G, and the introduction of edge services, the potential is there. We now have enough information to know that 5G will be better than LTE.
The second part is about Apple’s market power and its responsibility to the ecosystem. Apple is by far the largest supplier of devices in developed markets. For example, in the United States, Apple has about 45% of the share of all smartphones in use, in the United Kingdom it is in the high range of 30% and in Japan it is close to 50%. The impact of this, in layman’s terms, is that carriers create networks for every device, but optimize them for the iPhone.
The iPhone effect
The community of network providers and operators have been waiting for a 5G iPhone for the last quarter of 2020 for at least a year. There is no doubt that this has boosted the deployment of the network. If there was no iPhone in the pipeline, operators would not have invested at the same level, the equipment market would not have been so resilient, and the entire ecosystem would have evolved more slowly. .
Of course, Apple could have sat down and said, “5G doesn’t quite meet our standards; let’s wait a year or two while the telecom industry finds out about this.” But as the main provider of end-user devices on the network, that would have been an abdication of responsibility and ultimately an act of self-harm. There is a co-dependency between networks and devices. With the iPhone 12, Apple is seriously putting “the skin in the game” to respond to its side of the story.
By the way, I’m of course not the only one who noticed the flat sides of the new iPhone. To my eyes, there is a direct reading of the design of this iPhone 12 from those early prototypes of mmWave 5G, with flat sides for the antenna panels, which we first saw in demos there. a few years ago. In this case, form really follows function.
?? Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Mobile Networks, Intensive Reading