The new iPhones came packed with so much new technology, pro level video, a glass back that is actually finger print resistant and they went thicker to provide all day battery life. But where is the 5G? And more importantly will this move cost them China?
Everyone is eager to offer 5G, but Apple has turned it’s nose up at the technology because it’s not ready. This stands in stark contrast to Samsung who launched 5G smartphones in Germany before they have a network.
I respect Apple’s decision to wait until the technology is ready.
My buying advice for 5G is to wait until for the next generation. Sure the speeds are bonkers, but coverage is often block by block and on the networks in New York don’t have indoor coverage. If you’re looking to upload content forget 5G, in most cases you’re still on 4G.
Apple has never been a first mover
The first iPhone didn’t even launch with 3G capabilities, it came with 2G/Edge. Apple has always been a generations behind in adopting new standards of connectivity.
5G needs time to work out it’s hardware issues. Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem is powering today’s 5G phones and there are heat issues. Handsets are dropping back to 4G due to overheating when it’s hot out.
There are currently no other options for 5G modems and this one doesn’t support all the 5G bands. We expect their next generation to be future proof. If you travel there is no 5G phones on the market that supports all the global bands.
Apple’s has always focused on delivering the best customer experience and today’s 5G isn’t it.
Will China wait for Apple to be ready?
China seeks to be the world leader in 5G
Even though China isn’t 5G ready today, they’re investing heavily in 5G. They’re setting up to be the world’s largest 5G market with an estimated 31M 5G smartphones by the end of 2020.
Chinese smartphone makers are aggressively rolling out 5G handsets. Huawei’s Mate 20 X 5G and ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro 5G are available. Vivo and Xiaomi are getting ready to release theirs soon.
Those 5G handsets represent a small fraction of the product lines of those companies. But in China’s fiercely competitive smartphone market, new features are introduced rapidly and companies battle to match (or beat) the specs of their competitors.
Apple is facing a new problem this year: People are replacing their handsets less often. Instead of replacing their phone every year or two, people are waiting two or three years to buy a new phone. This would mean waiting two to three years for 5G. During the 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G yearly upgrade cycles were normal.
But when we look at the 5G networks of today, Apple is right, 5G isn’t really a must-have feature. But in a country where new features generate sales and 5G is rolling out much more aggressively than in other markets Chinese rivals are gunning for Apple.
The US China trade war has made China more important to Huawei who has an uncertain fate in global markets.
In China Huawei’s latest devices appear to be winning because of enhanced hardware features like the camera. Innovation and technical features drive sales in China but Apple does still enjoy a cachet in China. It remains an aspirational brand, a brand leader even if they’re not quite the innovator they used to be.
Apple needs to keep its market share in China and ideally continue to grow it. Huawei’s need to dominate they’re home market is critical as they loose international market share to the trade war.
Huawei’s Mate 30 launch is now just days away and it is the first smartphone absent U.S. tech. The phone is rumored to launch without Google software and services.
There is talk that they will launch with an unlicensed, open source version of Android with a user-friendly download shortcut for Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and the Play Store. But this is far from the premium experience Huawei is looking to project for it’s flagship smartphone.
Even with all of this drama the reaction to the iPhone launching in China without 5G hasn’t been positive. Couple this with the fact that Apple is becoming a service company that doesn’t offer any services in China.
Looking back this could be the moment where Apple looses China.
To read more about Apple’s issues with being a service provider in China: Will Apple’s move toward services work in China?