The era of 5G technology is here. Wireless carriers in the US, UK, South Korea, and many other countries have begun rolling out 5G networks. Smartphone vendors such as Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, and others have launched their 5G smartphones. Following its settlement with Qualcomm, Apple is expected to launch its first 5G iPhone in 2020. But the first 5G iPad Pro may not arrive until 2021, according to a reliable Apple analyst.
The 5G iPad Pro will launch after the 5G iPhone
Citing TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Economic Daily News noted that people waiting for a 5G iPad Pro are going to have to wait a little longer than expected. While the 5G-compatible iPad Pro won’t launch until 2021, Android vendors could flood the market with 5G Android tablets by next year. But then, people who want an iPad have little interest in Android tablets.
Kuo has a proven track record when it comes to Apple-related leaks. He predicts that Apple will keep the 11-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes for the next-generation iPad Pro tablets, which are expected to launch in late 2019 or early 2020. The upcoming iPad Pros won’t support 5G, but Apple will make significant internal changes to improve network performance before and during the transition from 4G to 5G.
According to the analyst, the Cupertino company will start using liquid crystal polymer (LCP) Soft Board in the next-generation iPads. Unlike printed circuit boards that are rigid, the LCP Soft Board is flexible, allowing for components to be connected in different ways. It could connect the wireless antennas to the logic boards in ways that reduce signal loss and network performance.
The LCP Soft Board could double the wireless connectivity speeds in the upcoming iPad Pro models even without 5G support. Apple could also add the LCP Soft Board to iPhones in 2020. Kuo pointed out that the iPad Pros have increasingly become productivity tools as well as entertainment devices. So, they need better network connections more than ever.
Back in 2012, Apple had 4G LTE support on iPads first before bringing it to iPhones. But iPhones could beat the iPads to 5G race this time. According to the analyst, Apple will launch the 5G iPad Pro after the first 5G iPhones hit the store shelves. That’s because consumers expect better wireless performance from productivity devices than smartphones.
The Apple-Qualcomm bonhomie
It was Apple’s desperation to bring 5G iPhones to the market at the earliest that forced it to settle its years-long dispute with Qualcomm. The Cupertino company had originally planned to use Intel’s 5G modem in 2020 iPhones. But Intel’s modem was unable to meet development goals, which might have delayed the launch of 5G iPhones. Apple cannot afford to further delay the 5G iPhones. Samsung and many other Android vendors have already launched 5G smartphones.
Instead of relying on Intel, Apple decided to settle the lawsuits with Qualcomm and use Qualcomm 5G modems in its future iPhones. The iPhone maker agreed to pay Qualcomm royalties and an undisclosed sum, which is rumored to be above $5 billion. Apple’s surprise settlement with Qualcomm forced Intel to exist the 5G modem business for smartphones. The Cupertino company was Intel’s only large customer.
Notably, Apple poached Intel’s lead 5G modem developer just a couple of months before settling the disputes with Qualcomm. According to The Telegraph, Apple hired Umashankar Thyagarajan in February this year. Thyagarajan played an important role in developing Intel’s 4G LTE modem for 2018 iPhones. He was heading Intel’s 5G XMM 8160 modem development when Apple hired him.
Apple is said to be developing its own 5G modem under the leadership of hardware VP Johny Srouji. But it won’t make it to iPhones until 2021 at the earliest. Apple’s 5G modem project lead Ruben Caballero left the company after the Qualcomm deal.