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Behold the First 5G iPhone
For most enterprise users, no mobile device is more important than the iPhone. When the iPhone launched in June 2007, CEOs started calling their IT shops to set up their iPhones, so they can send and receive their business emails on it. From there, Apple’s impact on enterprise communications has only continued to intensify. With the pending release of the iPhone 12 later this year, iPhone users will be able to get on board with 5G.
Apple caused a minor stir Monday when it announced an event for Sept. 15, right around the time Apple typically makes major iPhone announcements. However, it quickly became clear that this announcement would deal with a new Apple Watch (Time Flies, get it?) and maybe an iPad update, but not the much-anticipated iPhone 12. This seems to confirm rumors that component problems are delaying the launch for a few weeks.
Prior to the iPhone, most enterprise IT shops could pretty much ignore Apple and simply tell those few Mac users in graphic design departments that they were on their own. The instant popularity of the iPhone hit IT like a sledgehammer. The difference was that this time higher-ups in the organization were requesting (demanding) iPhone access to the sanctum of corporate email, leaving IT, and particularly IT security, in a quandary.
Anyone with a basic understanding of enterprise email security requirements could see that the first iterations of the iPhone were nowhere near meeting minimum enterprise security requirements, and established security practices may have been stretched “beyond the limit” in those early days to meet those executive demands.
Over the next few years, Apple greatly improved its overall security posture and added key enterprise capabilities like Microsoft Exchange and mobile device management (MDM) support, so the early security concerns around Apple largely disappeared. When IT got over its BlackBerry obsession and let users start choosing their preferred devices (corporate paid or BYOD), Apple essentially took over the corporate smartphone business, garnering upwards of 75% market share by my estimates. Now any enterprise app that needs to mobilize better run on Apple’s iOS.
So today, any news about the iPhone, or virtually any of Apple’s mobility products, is news for enterprise buyers. And with 5G being the biggest news in the mobility world, the first 5G iPhone is big news.
Leading iPhone 12 Rumors
While Apple’s secrecy regarding product plans was once legendary, the company now seems to employ targeted leaks as part of its overall product rollout plans; the uncanny accuracy of many of the rumors seems to confirm that hypothesis. The entire Apple-watching industry knew the new iPhone was coming, so the rumor mill has cranked up to full throttle. While there are plans in the works for new Macs, iPads, Apple Watches, and subscription services, the only thing anyone wants to talk about is the iPhone — with iPhones representing over 50% of Apple’s revenues, can you blame them?
If Apple sticks to form, the new device will be called the iPhone 12, and it will have several enhancements. Key among them will be 5G cellular capability, both Sub-6 GHz and millimeter-wave varieties, which will be supported on all models. The new models will use Apple’s new A14 chip, offer three screen sizes, all OLED displays, and will incorporate a LiDAR sensor allowing accurate distance measurements up to 5 meters, along with the 3D camera. The initial target for the LiDAR appears to be improved augmented reality, but this could be an important generic capability that lots of crafty developers could build on.
Apple’s entry into the 5G handset market should be a major impetus for the carriers to keep pushing forward on their 5G network deployments, and millimeter-wave support will be most important for AT&T and Verizon, who are making millimeter-wave small cells a big part of their 5G deployment plans. While we have had Samsung 5G capable devices for months, in the mobile world, nothing is “real” until Apple gets on board.
Now that Apple’s long-running royalty suit with Qualcomm has come to an end, Apple will reportedly be using that company’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem in place of similar components from Intel. Importantly, the X55 supports the full range of Sub-6 and millimeter-wave bands, in essence, the full capabilities that 5G enhanced mobile broadband has to offer. The Snapdragon X55 is also part of the Snapdragon 865 5G and 5G+ Mobile Platforms used in most Samsung 5G models.
There was apparently some squabbling with Apple about the physical design of Qualcomm’s antenna module (antennas are a big thing in 5G, particularly the millimeter wave part). The upshot is that Apple may have designed its own antenna system, but we will find out how that goes eventually.
As with all good things in life, 5G comes with a price — one that may need to be factored into your next budget if your company is still providing corporate-paid devices. Industry reports claim that the 5G capability may add as much as $135 to the cost of each device; with Apple’s mark-up, that could translate into $200 in the retail price. There is talk Apple might leave out the wired headphones that usually come with an iPhone to keep costs down.
MacRumors is saying there will be four models with the following starting prices: 5.4-inch iPhone 12- $649, 6.1-inch iPhone 12- $749, 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro- $999, and 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max- $1,099. Larger memory sizes will increase those costs.
Pay to Play (or Hopefully, to Work)
While 5G’s arrival has yet to yield the earth-shaking impact the carriers have promised, eventually, the entire cellular infrastructure will be upgraded to the new standard, and the average data rate wide-area data users see, particularly in those millimeter-wave hot spots, should improve noticeably. Of course, some 75% of smartphone data is carried over Wi-Fi, and the current iPhone 11 already includes the latest 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 capability with 2x2 MIMO. So, iPhone users on the office Wi-Fi network might not notice anything at all.
We have already seen $1,000+ price tags on Samsung 5G smartphones, and it appears part of Apple’s price is due to 5G component costs. Verizon is reportedly charging an additional $10 per month for 5G on some plans, but competitive pressures will likely put a quick end to that. In the meantime, that will certainly be a negotiating point on corporate contracts.
If you are the party responsible for the corporate smartphone budget, you will be taking this one on the chin. One policy option you may consider, one a number of my clients have adopted, is to provide “one-generation-older” devices. That means “we’ll give you a company-paid device, but we’re not giving you the latest-and-greatest.” The company standard essentially becomes the vendor’s next-to-latest generation device. In some cases, we must make provisions to allow users to “pay the difference” to get the newest model, but the internal accounting systems often turn out to be the greatest obstacle.
iPhone upgrades should be a routine event by now, but it’s important to remember that Apple is the trendsetter in the mobile business, either with original technical innovations or in reinventing ideas that had failed to catch on. Facial recognition was around long before Apple’s Face ID, but Apple made it friendly and then indispensable for authenticating all types of apps and payments.
I predict the availability of faster mobile broadband on 5G (the only capability of 5G the carriers have yet delivered) will yield only a short-term sales boost among the Apple ultra-faithful. I also think the real sleeper here could be the LiDAR capability, and hopefully, the applications won’t be limited to entertainment. I’m waiting to see what the enterprise developers will be able to do with that.