Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In the past, it hasn’t been a problem for the Cupertino, California-based company to wait a year after much of its competition to release phones compatible with the latest wireless networks. The original iPhone in 2007 was so far ahead of rivals that its slower connection, known as 2G EDGE, wasn’t a deal breaker for early adopters.
Even the iPhone 4S with its flashy features, like a stainless steel frame and the promise of Siri, were enough for some to ignore its lack of true 4G LTE speeds.
But going into 2019, the stakes have changed: the leap from 4G to 5G is significant enough that it may become a major selling point for new devices. Samsung plans to have 5G phones in its Galaxy range next year. And in China – the largest market for smartphones – major producers Oppo and Huawei also have indicated they plan to offer 5G phones.
“Apple has always been a laggard in cellular technology,” said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner. “They weren’t impacted in the past, but 5G is going to be much easier to market. But if they wait beyond 2020, then I think they’ll be impacted.”
Apple also is under more pressure to keep its iPhone customer base.
The company has lost a fifth of its value the past two months amid a tech stock rout and reports of suppliers cutting forecasts, signalling the new models introduced in September aren’t selling as well as anticipated.
While the global smartphone market has declined for four consecutive quarters, according to industry analyst IDC, the iPhone accounts for almost 60 per cent of Apple’s revenue and is the foundation of the company’s push for sales in consumer services such as music, video and cloud storage.