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UPDATED: Source: Only one of Apple’s new iPhones supports the fastest 5G

All the 2020 iPhones will sport 5G, but only the top-of-the-line model has room for the antenna and battery needed for speedy millimeter-wave 5G.

UPDATED: Source: Only one of Apple’s new iPhones supports the fastest 5G
[Photo: Filip Baotić/Unsplash]
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UPDATE – October 13

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Contrary to the view of our source, all four of the new iPhone 12 models Apple announced Tuesday support millimeter-wave 5G, but only in the U.S. versions of the devices.

Original story:

Just one of the new iPhones Apple is set to announce will support the faster millimeter-wave flavor of 5G wireless service, a wireless industry source tells Fast Company.

All the phones in the new iPhone 12 line will support the slower but more common Sub-6 type of 5G service, but only the largest, highest-end phone in the line, a 6.5-inch screen device likely called the iPhone Pro Max, will also support millimeter-wave 5G.

The source says only the largest phone in the line has room inside for the special antenna design required for millimeter wave and larger battery needed to accommodate millimeter wave’s significant power draw. Also, only the U.S., Korea, and Japan versions of the Pro Max will support millimeter-wave 5G.

If Sub-6 5G is a Camry, millimeter-wave 5G is a Mercedes S-Class.

If Sub-6 5G is a Camry, millimeter-wave 5G is a Mercedes S-Class. It travels over high-frequency radio spectrum, between 24 GHz and 39 GHz, and delivers download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) and sometimes beyond. On the other hand, the signal has trouble penetrating objects such as buildings and is more expensive for carriers to deploy than a lower-frequency service.

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Sub-6 service, which uses lower frequency spectrum below 6 GHz, produces speeds that are much more like a good 4G connection. After studying the U.S. 5G market this summer, OpenSignal found 5G average download speeds of about 51 Mbps, and 4G average download speeds of 29 Mbps. That’s because U.S. wireless carriers now offer far more Sub-6 coverage than millimeter wave. Sub-6 service, while slower, can support more users per base station, and has farther reach, so it’s more cost effective.

According to a number of leaks and reports, Apple will soon announce two high-end iPhones, including the Pro Max and a 6.1-inch iPhone Pro. The company is also expected to announce a pair of lower-price models, the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 and the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Max.

Our source adds that Apple may launch a new low-priced 4G iPhone in the iPhone 12 line next spring, an upgraded version of the iPhone SE the company launched last April.

About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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