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Why Apple Waiting Until 2020 for a 5G iPhone Makes Sense

December 3, 2018, 2:26 PM UTC

Apple has decided to wait until at least 2020 to offer an iPhone with 5G connectivity, according to a new report. And if that’s true, you’ll be happy it did.

Earlier on Monday, Bloomberg cited industry sources who said Apple has decided against launching a 5G iPhone in 2019 and will instead introduce it in 2020, at the earliest. Bloomberg’s sources said that Apple will follow a tack it took with 3G and 4G wireless technology and wait at least a year for early adopters to access the technology before offering 5G itself. Bloomberg also cited “5G boosters” who believe the jump to 5G will be great and Apple’s decision to wait “riskier.”

The truth, however, is that Apple’s decision to wait makes sense on several fronts.

For one, we’ve been hearing reports that Apple (AAPL) had wanted to offer 5G in 2019, but due to compatibility problems between its iPhone and 5G chips built by Intel, it can’t do it. Those reports said the Intel chips were causing the iPhones to become unstable and hog battery life.

That alone is enough reason to wait. Apple simply can’t afford to launch a 5G iPhone with hobbled performance. Even if connectivity is slower, a 4G iPhone that works well would trump a broken 5G iPhone any day.

But it goes beyond that.

What those “5G boosters” apparently ignore is that 5G’s rollout is expected to be somewhat slow. Major carriers, like Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T), are already testing 5G with promises of big things to come, but nearly every industry watcher says 5G won’t become ubiquitous or enjoy rapid, heavy deployment until 2020. More 5G markets will crop up in 2019, for sure, but there will still be plenty of people waiting until 2020 or beyond to get the technology in their area. For those people—millions strong—a 5G iPhone would be useless.

Finally, we should acknowledge that not being first isn’t necessarily a bad thing in tech. In fact, Apple has used that strategy with great success over the years. The truth is, new technology like 5G could have some problems that need to be worked out in the beginning. And as much as carriers have tested and tested the technology, there’s no telling what might go wrong in the early days.

Apple has long believed that stable performance is more important than cutting-edge performance. And in 5G, there’s reason to believe that philosophy makes sense.

There’s no debating that 5G is the future and it promises incredible gains in speed, connectivity, and more. But waiting a year to jump on that bandwagon won’t hurt Apple—or its customers.