• Souvik Mondal

The 5G iPhone Is Coming but It’s Not What You Think

Sometime in the next few weeks, I expect we’ll have an iPhone event. You know, the kind of high-profile product launch during which Apple rolls out its new flagship device and all its fancy new features. And I’m not the only one. The Apple rumor mill has pegged October 13 as the date, and many iPhone users are widely expecting a redesigned form factor that brings back the flat sides of the iPhone 5, similar to the current iPad Pro and iPad Air.

In this case, however, one feature stands out at the top of most people’s list of expectations: 5G. Despite the fact that most people aren’t entirely sure what 5G actually means, cellular companies have done a fantastic job making everyone think it’s the thing we need the most.

That, combined with the fact that the iPhone hasn’t seen a major redesign in a few years, could lead to a massive wave of upgrades this fall. Most of the predictions expect we’ll see four new iPhones, all of which may feature some version of 5G. We’ve already waited longer than usual, largely due to the way pandemic life has made just about everything a little more complicated, including launching a brand new iPhone. 

Here’s the thing, while everyone expects that the next iPhones will have both a new look and 5G, there’s more to it than that. And, it’s not what you think. The term “5G” covers a range of different technologies, and they have very different performances, as well as limitations.

The fastest version of 5G, known as millimeter wave (mmWave), because it uses a high-frequency wavelength, is what most people probably think of when they imagine the promise of incredibly fast mobile internet. This is the version that delivers 1GB/sec and faster download speeds. However, most 5G isn’t mmWave. 

That’s because mmWave only works in close proximity to a cell tower. And by close proximity, I mean in terms of feet or yards, not miles like LTE. If you have mmWave in your kitchen, it’s entirely possible–even likely–you won’t have it in your living room. It’s just that finicky. 

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