Why iPhones Won’t Have 5G For A While

Anthony Dennis
5 min readSep 16, 2019

Earlier this week, it was that time of the year again. The infamous Apple “September Event”, this year deemed “By Innovation Only”, has now come and gone., and in its wake, we’re left with the announcement of the iPhone 11 series, as well as a new Apple Watch and iPad. But, the brand new iPhone 11 won’t have 5G, Why would Apple, one of the world’s leaders in smartphones leave such an emerging feature out of their latest iPhones when their competition, the likes of which say Samsung, have been offering 5G variants of their phones since March of 2019?

The answer, when examined through the lens of “the Apple experience” actually makes a lot of sense, and will seemingly justify Apple’s decision to leave an emerging tech out of their latest phones.

Next Gen Connectivity

5G is one of the big ticket items in terms of bringing smartphones into the their next generation. The new connectivity offers many pros, namely higher speed and lower latency, but also brings a list of cons as well. Most notable of which, being the high risk for signal disruption through objects, as well as a more limited range by comparison to the current 4G network placed in the majority of the US. Because of these limitations, 5G is going to require a lot more infrastructure in place than the current 4G network. Some of the more populous cities in the US, like Chicago, have had the phone carriers begin to place the start of this infrastructure, and as a result certain areas of Chicago have limited 5G coverage, for use by capable devices. For a more visual example of what I mean, check out MrMobile’s video about 5G in Chicago here.

Nonetheless, 5G will eventually make it to the masses. And as previously mentioned, Samsung is already prepared, having launched 5G variants of the Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy Note 10, for those fortunate enough to live or work in a building next to a 5G cell tower. So with Samsung and other brands taking steps to “normalize” or at the very least, introduce 5G connectivity in their phones, why hasn’t Apple decided to push the market forward, and add this feature to their latest phones? After all, having a mass of iPhone users start pushing for a faster implementation of 5G would certainly push the market forward a ways, right?

In my opinion, yes, but Apple neglected to put 5G in the iPhone 11 for one simple reason: the feature would be considered half baked, if users couldn’t experience 5G at least 90% of the time, which presently, isn’t feasible for the aforementioned reasons.

Apple And Features

Say what you will about Apple, (I, as a life time Android user certainly do have list of criticisms, like I’m sure many others do) but to give credit where credit is due, Apple doesn’t like to half bake in features into their phones (or devices at large, for that matter). In my limited experience using the ecosystem of Apple devices for a few months here and there, the most glaring take away I’m left with is that by comparison to Android, while Apple may not throw in all of the latest and greatest features, and in some cases even missing some, what features are there all seem to have a uniform quality to them. I can expect the same cohesive experience from one Apple app or function to another. This is in contrast to say my long term experience with Samsung’s phones. The last time I switched over to iOS (for work purposes) was to an iPhone XS Max. It was notable for having an OLED screen, a first for Apple at the time. As a result of having this screen, I was hoping with iOS 12 at the time, that a function for an Always On Display (AOD) would be present, a feature I have enjoyed using since my Samsung Galaxy S7 days. While here we are at iOS 13 and AOD is no where in sight (except for the Apple Watach Series 5), a recent experience with my S10+ may have given me a hint as to why Apple hasn’t implemented it on their phones yet.

As aforementioned, I’ve been using the AOD feature since my Galaxy S7 days (circa 2016). When picking up and using my Galaxy S10+, I proceeded as normal, customizing it to my liking. It functioned very well until one fateful day. You see, AOD uses “Pixel Shift” to try and prevent screen burn in. “Pixel Shift” is where the displaying screen elements on an AOD subtly move about from place to place over time, in order to prevent screen burn in, an issue inherent to OLED screens. But on this particular day, for whatever reason (I’ve personally attributed it to a software glitch) Pixel Shift failed to work as intended, and I was left with a static clock noticeably burned into my display. Quite annoying. While I’ve since replaced the display on my S10+, this anecdote has provided some insight to the lake of Apple’s seaweed being just a little bit greener.

While once criticizing Apple for not having an AOD feature, after this experience, I can now draw a conclusion why they may have left this feature out. This sort of software glitch could happen to them, and this would be the sort of thing Apple would find to be “unacceptable”. Now to clarify, I’m not saying Samsung necessarily finds this acceptable either, after all, they don’t want to leave their users with a bad experience, but this sort of issue would be something Samsung has figured into what would be considered a “failure rate” for their phones. If they didn’t want to, they probably wouldn’t have implemented AOD. Having this sort of error contribute to the failure rate for iPhones doesn’t seem like the path Apple wants to go down.

Full Circle

So, how does this relate back to the iPhone 11 not having 5G? Well, the simple answer is that having 5G connectivity in the iPhone 11 isn’t worth the cost of the additional hardware, that will sit being useless for, quite frankly, virtually all end users of the iPhone 11. Apple doesn’t like to implement features a majority of its users won’t benefit from, nor do they like to implement features that may contribute to a majority of users having a lesser experience with their products. It’s because of this philosophy, that Apple didn’t implement 5G into the iPhone 11, and I would go so far as to say, that Apple will comparatively be one of the last to market when it comes to implementing 5G connectivity in their iPhones.

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read my criticisms of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, check out my article here.