Shipments of mmWave 5G iPhones Could Be Much Weaker Than Expected This Year

The latest shipment estimates for Apple's upcoming mmWave-enabled 5G iPhones are several million units lower than previously expected, which is intensifying competition among suppliers of AiP substrates, reports DigiTimes.

iPhone 12 5G New 1

Shipments of mmWave-enabled 5G iPhones slated for launch later this year are estimated to reach only 15-20 million units in 2020 compared to a previous supply chain estimate of 30-40 million units, intensifying competition among Apple's suppliers of FC-AiP substrates for the new phones, according to industry sources.

Apple is believed to be designing its own antenna-in-package or "AiP" module for mmWave iPhones, which use a set of 5G frequencies that promise ultra-fast speeds at short distances, making it best suited for dense urban areas. By contrast, sub-6GHz 5G is generally slower than mmWave, but the signals travel further, better serving suburban and rural areas.

According to DigiTimes, Apple's AIP package is more cost-effective than previous designs, but some analysts believe that models with support for ultra-fast mmWave technology will likely launch after sub-6GHz models due to production challenges and the global health crisis. To counter these challenges, Apple has diversified its supply chain for the modules to minimize risk.

The upcoming mmWave 5G iPhones will adopt more cost-effective FC-AiP process, with ASE Technology to package AiP modules, the sources said. But Apple reportedly has finalized three suppliers of BT-based FC-AiP substrates, including one based in Taiwan and two in South Korea, and they will together supply 30-50 million substrates, the sources said, adding one iPhone will require 2-3 AiP modules.

Prior to the global health crisis, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple was still on track to release both sub-6GHz and sub-6GHz-plus-mmWave "iPhone 12" models simultaneously in the second half of 2020, with shipments beginning in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter.

Kuo has not indicated whether those plans have since changed, but other analysts have said they believe the mmWave iPhones may not arrive this year because Apple's custom antenna-in-package is proving to be more of a battery drain than the company would like.

Kuo has said 5G iPhone models with mmWave would be available in five markets, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom. He also believes Apple may disable 5G functionality in countries that do not offer 5G service or have a shallow 5G penetration rate to reduce production costs.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 12 (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

BvizioN Avatar
9 months ago

Apple was sued in Australia (and other countries) as a result of advertising that it has 4G but 4G was in its infancy at that time
It is true, but it is mind-boggling that people do get away with such a stupid lawsuit. It is like people buying Tesla electric cars to use them in areas where the charging infrastructure is not in place and suing Tesla for advertising cars as electric! Nothing short of stupidity!!
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BvizioN Avatar
9 months ago

I recently traded for an S20+, and wouldn't go back.
"Recently" is the keyword here. Give it a few months. or a year and see how you feel about it.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Brian Y Avatar
9 months ago

I don't see this iPhone being a hit. I think people are getting iPhone fatigue. The enthusiast who knows what 120Hz is or what LiDar is (I don't) will want it, but the average guy who doesn't know what these features are won't care.

We're in the age of corona, riots, and Trump. Long lines that wrap the corner block and the untempered excitement people once had for the latest and greatest iPhone seems so yesterday...
I mean, they'll still sell them by the millions, but quite a few people are going the same way I did - having owned pretty much every iPhone since the original launch day back in 2007, I recently traded for an S20+, and wouldn't go back.

It'll be interesting to see how they handle the 5G launch. They buggered up 4G in quite a few places - e.g. launching "4G" models in Aus with no 4G network, launching the 4G iPhone 5 in the UK with support for only 1 4G network.

I'm assuming they'll go the way other manufacturers have, having 4G, 5G sub-6 and 5G mmwave models, depending on the market. There's zero point putting mmwave devices out in the UK at the moment, for example, since no network currently has plans (or spectrum) to support it. Heck, outside of Italy, I don't think any country in Europe has even allcated mmwave spectrum yet.

That's pretty much what Samsung do. My UK purchased S20+ 5G doesn't support mmwave - do I really care? Nope. By the time mmwave is actually in use in the UK I doubt i'll still have it. IMO, outside of densely populated cities, mmwave isn't really needed anyway. On sub-6, I've managed to hit 350mbps indoors on EE, and consistently get speeds well over 100mbps. That's absolutely plenty for a mobile phone IMO.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
UltimaKilo Avatar
9 months ago
5G support seems like a waste in 2020. They should have pushed back that feature to fall 2021 models when 5G is better deployed (and even then, it likely won’t be until 2022 that its widely available).
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IIGS User Avatar
9 months ago
I suspect I'll upgrade when the new phone comes out.

The 5G is a selling point for me, but the big difference is in the design. The rounded phones are hard for me to keep hold of for one. Second, I just prefer the squared off design.

A new phone every few years is how I "treat" myself, so this is enough for me to make a change from my Xr.

Plus I can sell the Xr and still get a decent amount of money for it.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Reason077 Avatar
9 months ago

5G to me seems a bit like curved TV's/3DTV. Pushing the edge of what consumers actually want. They will really need to solve the coverage issue.
5G coverage for me (UK, 3.6Ghz band) is actually much better than expected. Having tried 2 different networks (Three and Vodafone), Three's coverage map shows no 5G at my location, and Vodafone's shows the weakest band of signal. But in reality I actually get 5/5 5G signal strength and excellent, reliable download speeds on both, indoors. It probably helps that I'm on the 5th floor, but even on the street outside at ground level it's still 5/5.

This is with a Huawei mobile MiFi 5G router (E6878).

Vodafone seems to now have excellent 5G coverage throughout East London, pretty much wherever I go. Not quite so much in Central London yet, though, but it falls back seamlessly to 4G of course.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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