In a somewhat unexpected move, Apple and Qualcomm decided to drop all charges against each other earlier this week and entered a six-year license deal. Shortly afterward, Apple's current modem supplier, Intel, announced that it's exiting the 5G smartphone business.
Kuo said that Apple will divide modems orders between Qualcomm and Samsung in 2020, which suggests that the company has no plans to release a 5G-ready iPhone this year. Apple is not an early adopter of new technologies and usually waits for them to stabilize before introducing them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as new technologies are often expensive to implement. Moreover, by being cautious, Apple also manages to escape the pitfalls that might be associated with something new.
For instance, Apple seems to be in no hurry to release a foldable smartphone, unlike other manufacturers and looking at the recent Galaxy Fold debacle, it certainly seems like a sane decision. Pushing out a half-baked product in the market can be detrimental to the reputation of the company and perhaps that's why the iPhone maker avoids such risks.
In any case, 5G isn't expected to become mainstream anytime soon so iPhone customers wouldn't really be missing out by going for a phone that doesn't support 5G. Needless to say, the 2019 iPhones will most probably support the current-generation LTE networks.
Back to 5G modems, having two suppliers on board will not just enable Apple to negotiate better prices, it will also ensure a steady supply of chips. Moreover, since Apple is an important client, both the vendors will also strive to improve the quality of their modems to win a bigger chunk of the orders. Kuo expects Apple to use Qualcomm's modems for markets with mmWave spectrum 5G and Samsung's for Sub-6GHz markets.
Kuo also expects 5G to boost the sales of the 2020 iPhones significantly. Like most other smartphone makers, Apple has also been witnessing a decline in sales since the last few years. This can partially be attributed to the fact that people are holding on to their iPhones for longer. However, with the introduction of 5G support, Kuo expects Apple to sell 195-200 million iPhones in 2020 as new connectivity standards would compel people to upgrade their devices. For 2019, Kuo predicts that 188-192 million iPhones will be shipped.
Intel was apparently struggling with 5G modems and this is what reportedly forced Apple to extend an olive brand towards Qualcomm. Previously, the two were engaged in a bitter legal battle. Qualcomm has made great strides when it comes to 5G and Intel has failed to keep pace with it.
The company has already released two standalone 5G modems and is also expected to release a flagship processor as well as a mid-range processor with a built-in 5G chip later this year. Meanwhile, Apple is also tipped to be ramping up its in-house chip development efforts. However, this could take a rather long time.