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Apple’s late 5G iPhone entrance could still face major supplier challenges in 2020

A new report today from Bloomberg looks at the tricky situation Apple may be in as it looks into sourcing 5G modems for its 2020 iPhone lineup. While using Intel may be the company’s first choice, there could be a major downside in using those chips. Meanwhile, Apple’s other 5G modem supplier options are also less than ideal.

While Android smartphone manufacturers are launching 5G capable smartphones this year, carriers won’t be launching widespread coverage of the new cellular standard until late this year and into 2020.

Apple is expected to include 5G modems in its 2020 lineup most likely provided by Intel, but a new note from analysts at Cowen seen by Bloomberg suggests that Apple may be in a pickle here.

If Apple does stick with Intel, it sounds like the 5G chips may be limited, without support for mmWave frequencies. If that turns out to be the case, that fact compounded by releasing 5G iPhones a year or more after competitors could be a bad combination.

Apple’s first option, Cowen wrote, is to “launch 18 months after 5G competition with an inferior modem from Intel likely without mmWave capabilities,” referring to the band of spectrum that can be used for 5G’s high-speed wireless communications.

Cowen notes that another choice would be for Apple to look to Samsung for 5G chips, but that likely wouldn’t result in terms Apple would find agreeable.

A third option for Apple is settling its quarrels with Qualcomm, but that’s probably even less likely than Apple using Samsung for its iPhone modems.

Finally, Cowen highlights that Apple could buy Intel’s modem business and try to fast track the hardware to be ready by 2020. However, that would likely be both expensive and challenging.

Notably, Apple has already begun work developing its own modems, but those efforts won’t likely produce any consumer ready products for several years.

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Avatar for Michael Potuck Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.