by Iain Morris, LightReading Editor

Apple's launch of a 5G-compatible iPhone this week had been crayoned into the calendar for a while. The surprise was that 5G was almost the full story – apart, that is, from the inclusion of 5-nanometer chip technology that to most people will mean about as much as, well, 7-nanometer chip technology.

The most exciting thing about 5G is not what it will do for smartphone zombies (smombies) but its ability to connect billions of non-consumer gadgets. This, at least, is the message the industry used to preach. Unfortunately, the sputtering "Internet of Things" has forced it to backtrack and reverse straight into Apple, a company with engine problems of its own.

5G might be needed in the future to support virtual-reality dodgeball, 8K TV or some other small-screen service that titillates the smombie. But Apple is either ceding the job of service innovator to someone else or simply coming up short. There is no application breakthrough that justifies ownership of a 5G smartphone today.

"We may see some short-term disappointment from consumers," said Daniel Valle of World Wide Technology, a technology service provider. "In essence, today's announcement is asking customers to future-proof their purchase; to invest now and wait for the lightning speeds promised by 5G."

The lack of a breakthrough would have mattered to Apple before its entry into the smartphone market, when analysts doubted the impact it could make. In 2020, after Apple's metamorphosis into an iPhone factory, it is practically irrelevant. Amid the economic blight of the June-ending quarter, before a 5G model had arrived, Apple still managed to ship $26.4 billion worth of iPhones, nearly 2% more than a year earlier. Cynical or otherwise, Apple knows it could drop a retrograde, feature-poor gadget into the bullpen of its followers and watch a feeding frenzy ensue.


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