iPhone 12 Surprise: Not All 5G Created Equal

5G wireless and iPhone 12

As we may have already guessed, 5G wireless means whatever the carriers want it to mean. Clarification is in order because not all 5G created equal.

As the launch of the iPhone draws near, it’s time to look at what the high, mid and low bands of 5G mean for the consumer. And when each will come into widespread use.

Not All 5G Created Equal

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from Gene Munster at LoupVentures.

Over the next decade, we believe 5G will be a transformative force because it will allow users to leverage data in the cloud for real-time computing, opening the door for an array of new technologies and businesses. That said, not all 5G is created equal, which has led to marketing noise from carriers regarding 5G performance and deployment.

Munster likens 5G to a three-layered cake. The botton layer is 5G low band. It has a longer wavelength than the millimeter wavelengths we usually associate with 5G (mmWave). It, therefore, has a longer range and better penetration through walls. This band will roll out first. That’s because the carriers knew that the expensive to implement and limited range of the high band would be suicidal to roll out, broadly, first. (Except for early mmWave tests in a few major cities. Gotta have some 5G performance hype for the marketing department.)

That said, with average speeds just ~1.4x faster than 4G, low band 5G is only a marginal improvement and likely won’t drive consumer adoption of 5G devices, e.g., iPhone 12.

Munster provides an estimate of when the three bands will be in widespread use—with the fastest high band in widespread use in 2025. His chart and associated text shed a lot of light on what we can expect in the coming years. Buyer beware.

The Week’s Apple News Debris

• So what’s missing in the Apple Watch SE? Does it matter to you? The Verge explains. “Apple Watch SE review: pay a lot less to give up only a little.” There is a thorough discussion, but notably:

The other significant note about the SE is it’s the most likely model to choose if you want to take advantage of Apple’s new Family Setup feature. … it’s effectively Apple’s answer to the GPS tracking smartwatches for kids that Verizon, T-Mobile, and other carriers sell. It requires a watch with cellular connectivity, and since the SE is the lowest cost model Apple sells with that option, it’s the most appropriate one to give to a young child.

• The Apple Watch is so successful now, according to Neil Cybart, that more than one in three iPhone owners today is wearing one. “[It’s] a runaway train with no company in a position to slow it down.” This from Cybart’s analysis column Above Avalon.. “Apple Watch Momentum Is Building.

The sales chart Cybart presents is amazing.

According to my estimate, there were 81 million people wearing an Apple Watch as of the end of June. According to Apple, 75% of Apple Watch sales are going to first-time customers. This means that 23 million people will have bought their first Apple Watch in 2020.

To put that number in context, there are about 25 million people wearing a Fitbit. The Apple Watch installed base is increasing by the size of Fitbit’s overall installed base every 12 months.

• The biggest problem with a foldable smartphone, as Samsung found out with the Galaxy Fold, is damage along the crease. And, so we have Apple in the wings working to solve that problem. From 9to5Mac: Apple invents self-healing display for foldable iPhone.

As Spock would say, “It’s only logical.”

• iOS 14 has a lot of new privacy features. Here’s an overview, from Digital Trends, with great visual instructions on how to implement them. “How iOS 14’s privacy features can keep you safer.” Do them after you’re done here.

• Will a future European iPhone come app free? Maybe. MacRumors reports: “EU Plans to Ban Tech Companies From Pre-Installing Apps, Force Them to Share Data With Competitors.” Why the data sharing?

As part of its new Digital Services Act, the EU is planning to force the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Google to hand over customer data to smaller rivals in an effort to loosen the grip of big tech on consumers.

The big un-squeeze may be coming.

The companions will seem so cuddly at first.

• Finally, research into how we view intelligent robots has identified “distinct patterns in brain activity.” See: “Brain Activity Betrays Personal Attitudes About Human-Like Robots, Says Study.

This research is significant because it will help teach everyone how humans engage with robots, while also taking the temperature of the public’s future reaction to AI and humanoid robots in both healthcare applications and daily life.

And so, you will, by design, come to love your service robot. You won’t know why; it’ll just be a feeling.

By design.


Particle Debris is generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday.

2 thoughts on “iPhone 12 Surprise: Not All 5G Created Equal

  • One of the side benefits of the switch to 5G is that older 2G service is retired, and some carriers are eliminating 3G as well.

    This is good because older protocols, 2G especially, had security holes that hackers and “Stingrays” used. Good riddance.

  • John:
     
    A number of good reads this, although in fairness I haven’t had time to do most of them justice. By far, my favourite was Neil Cybart’s piece on Apple Watch Building Momentum. It’s an accurate analysis not simply on the Apple Watch’s position on a complex and dynamic tech battlefield, as competing platforms jockey for pole position in the race for the future, but of how Apple leverages each of these moving parts we too often view simply as devices, to compete against each other, and how, combined, these make the platform itself more nimble, versatile, adaptable and primed to not simply intercept but outflank and overrun the competition. In this respect, Apple is its own best competition. 
     
    His argument about the industry rush to AI-enabled stationary speakers (looking at you, Alexa) and the head-shaking by industry pundits who opined with increasing disapproval, that Apple were losing the smart home speaker race, only for Apple to move, unobserved but with deliberation and speed, to an AI-enabled wearable with not only equivalent command-level capability to the stationary speaker, but so very much more, that it threatened and then overtook not only that device, but the fitness industry on two fronts, fitness tracking and fitness streaming services, is spot on (dare one say, timely). Oh, and it benched the iPhone to the purse and pocket for increasing amounts of time out, pushing the iPhone to even greater functionality in order to reclaim prime relevance. 
     
    And the little wearable that could, punching way above its weight class, has so very much more untapped potential and head room. This is reminiscent of the all the pundit finger wagging about the netbook revolution and how Apple was asleep at the wheel and about to be rendered irrelevant, until Apple sucker-punched the industry with the iPad and put the netbook on the canvas, and it was lights out for the…what was it called again, the nope-book? That happened so fast, one could rightly call that a ‘phantom punch’ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/phantom_punch, so off-guard was the entire industry. To a fighter, this was no phantom but classic misdirection; direct your opponents eye away from the incoming blow that will take him out (that’s why it’s called a martial Art). 
     
    There is much here, but let’s focus on one big takeaway implicit in Cybart’s piece. 
     
    He mentions that as smart phone sales slumped, tech companies began groping about for the next big thing, and that some assumed that would be smart stationary speakers. Setting aside limited industry vision, let’s underscore something that many in the Apple community have failed to appreciate, certainly openly acknowledge. 
     
    I argue that Apple’s next big thing happened, and it came and went with the stealth and devastation of a night burglar; no one saw it coming but it left a devastating impact. What was it? A new epoch of the integrated platform. Not sexy enough? Just ask the competition whose lunch Apple have swallowed about sexiness, and marvel at the disparate range of industry in that wake; entertainment (music, television and film), social media and the surveillance capitalist revenue model (FB, Google and Amazon), entertainment streaming services, specifically music (Spotify), gaming (Epic et al), the watch industry – notably the luxury watch industry whose sales have nosedived despite the Apple Watch not being a ‘luxury’ watch, fitness trackers (Fitbit) and fitness streaming (Peloton, Nordic Track and a host of others) – and the list goes on (eg, the print publication industry writ large). 
     
    Take a moment, and challenge that analysis by naming another company that threatens across such a vast swathe of disciplines with measurable effect – and post your results. This is the power of platform integration. 
     
    In its initial, primitive stages, this integrated platform had both lesions (gaping holes), limited functionality (things didn’t ‘just work’ aka ‘you’re holding it wrong’) and there were only three functional hardware legs, only two of which were meaningful for work and play to the user; the Mac and the iPhone (I’m deliberately leaving out the iPod for reasons that should become obvious). Apple TV was more of a hardware addition that was clearly optional and did not play all that well with either of the other two. Today, we have (almost) seamless integration across macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS and all of the various devices they service, not to mention a Mac for every use case (yes, some still quibble), an iPhone for nearly (almost) every income level with disposable income, iPads for nearly every use case from casual to professional, the Apple Watch in an increasing range including the new SE model, a capable Apple TV that can also serve as a smart hub, and a smart speaker in the form of the HomePod; and an arsenal of backend support services that work across all of those devices. This is akin to a Navy with unrivalled platform diversification that reach any point on earth on sea, air and land with impunity against dedicated rival armed services in each of those domains. 
     
    Whether or not any observer, casual or professional, wishes to acknowledge this phenomenon, or give it its due, is irrelevant to its trans-industrial impact; but if that impact were not real, then why are Mark Zuckerberg, Spotify and Epic all simultaneously crying foul, Fitbit being absorbed by Google and the fitness streaming industry taking vigilant notice like meerkats to a raptor? And why are they lawyering up along the antitrust/anti-competitiveness front as if it were the Maginot Line (which will prove about as effective)? 
     
    Cybart’s explanation of Apple’s move into the health sphere is spot on and the subject for discussion another day. Suffice it to say, the competition, once again, not unlike ourselves in the Apple community, have been too concrete and unimaginative in our assessment of what Apple intended and where they were headed (which is excusable for us novices who simply enjoy the spoils of Apple’s exploits, inexcusable and perhaps non-recoverable for the competition). 
     
    This diverse, well serviced and resourced platform of moving parts is a feat of such magnitude and longterm impact that the iPhone pales by impact comparison, and is itself overwhelmed by this still gathering industrial storm. Yes, and ominously for the industry, it is still gathering. 
     
    Finally, we should keep our eyes on Apple’s next epoch of platform development, of which the migration of the entire hardware lineup to Apple Silicon is an essential part. Expect, amongst other things, better, tighter OS harmonisation with even more intelligent task distribution across devices that will put even more dedicated devices on the canvas and out of business. 
     
    There is nothing unfair about an idea and an approach so compelling that it overwhelms the competition. Indeed, it defines both natural evolution and the course of human history. 
     

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.