Which iPhones support 5G?

16 September 2020

Which iPhones support 5G

5G is quickly becoming a near-essential technology in smartphones, as it’s such a massive mobile data upgrade, so you might well be wondering which iPhones have 5G.

We’ve got good and bad news there – the good news is that many iPhones support very fast data speeds, and that an iPhone 5G is almost certainly launching very soon. The bad news is that no current iPhone models support 5G.

That might seem odd when so many rival phones do, but below you’ll find an explanation for why that is, along with details on the mobile data speeds of current iPhones, the likely release date of the first iPhone 5G, and some of the key alternative phones to consider if you just can’t wait.

Do any current iPhone models support 5G?

No, none of Apple's current or previous iPhone models, including the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone SE (2020), support 5G, and they never will because they require a hardware upgrade to connect to 5G networks.

How fast is mobile data on current iPhones?

iPhone Model 5G Ready Max 4G Speeds
iPhone 11 Pro / 11 Pro Max No

Cat 19 LTE

Max speeds 1600 Mbit/s

iPhone 11

No

Cat 16 LTE

Max speeds 1000 Mbit/s

iPhone SE 2020 No

Cat 16 LTE

Max speeds 1000 Mbit/s

iPhone XS / XS Max No

Cat 16 LTE

Max speeds 1000 Mbit/s

iPhone X / XR No

Cat 12 LTE

Max speeds 600 Mbit/s

 iPhone 8 / 8 Plus No

Cat 12 LTE

Max speeds 600 Mbit/s

iPhone 7 / 7 Plus No

Cat 9 LTE

Max speeds 450 Mbit/s

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max do support Gigabit LTE though, which is a very fast form of 4G, which in this case uses 4x4 MIMO (meaning a greater number of antennas than standard 4G) and is capable of attaining peak download speeds of 1.6Gbps, or 1,600Mbps.

Technically the iPhone 11, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are capable of similar, but Apple has made additional speed improvements for the 11 Pro models, having moved on from Cat 16 (which tops out at 1Gbps) to Cat 19.

This makes the iPhone 11 Pro range theoretically significantly faster than the iPhone XS range, as well as the iPhone SE (2020) – which is also Cat 16 - and several times faster than the iPhone X and iPhone XR, both of which pack lesser Cat 12 LTE modems.

This elevated performance is starting to enter the orbit of 5G. However, real world speeds are still typically far lower both than the maximum theoretical speeds offered by these iPhones, and than current 5G speeds.

Plus, 5G speeds are expected to improve over time, as infrastructure improves and networks acquire more 5G spectrum at auction. 5G right now will typically be at least several times faster than even the speeds you’re likely to get from the iPhone 11 Pro, as our 5G speeds guide explains, and in future the gulf will only widen.

The iPhone 11 Pro is fast, then. But it’s not at 5G speeds, and older and less high-end iPhones are slower still.

Stunning iPhone 5G concept video

When will Apple launch an iPhone 5G?

We’re expecting Apple to launch the first 5G iPhones this year (2020), likely in October. Most signs point to this year’s iPhones (likely to be called the iPhone 12 range) supporting 5G, and Apple typically launches new models in September.

So why are we saying October is likely? Because Apple has already held a big September event where it announced the Apple Watch 6, among other things, and another big launch in the same month is unlikely.

Not only that, but a number of release date rumours have pointed to October, with many sources claiming that the iPhone 12 range has been delayed by between 1 and 2 months, and some sources saying there’s an even bigger delay. Apple itself has even said there will be a delay of a few weeks in the phones being available, but it’s not clear whether that also means a delay in the launch.

So our best guess for now is an October announcement, with the iPhone 5G actually going on sale either later in October or in November. Though there’s still a chance it could land in September – or slip even later into the year.

Why hasn’t Apple launched a 5G iPhone yet?

The fact that we won’t get a 5G iPhone until at least late 2020 isn’t that surprising. While Apple often leads the way with its design innovations, it’s famously slow to adopt new third-party connection standards. Historically, the company tends to wait until new standards are relatively mature and well on their way to mass-market adoption before it considers implementing them.

Apple’s handling of the switch to 3G and 4G provides ample evidence of this. The company didn’t equip the first iPhone with 3G connectivity when it launched in 2007, despite the fact that the first commercially available 3G networks had gone live globally in 2002 and 2003. It wasn’t until the launch of the appropriately named iPhone 3G in 2008 that Apple adopted the by then well-established mobile network standard.

Apple was similarly late to the party when it came to 4G. By the time the 4G-ready iPhone 5 hit the market in 2012, consumers had already experienced around two years of 4G Android phone releases.

Even the iPhone XS with its Cat 16 Gigabit LTE support arrived a good year and a half after the Samsung Galaxy S8 did likewise, and the iPhone 11 Pro hasn’t pushed things that much further.

In an earnings call from early 2020, Tim Cook (Apple’s CEO) even said that with 5G we’re in the “early innings of its deployment”, while skirting the question of a 5G iPhone, so it sounds like the company is still in no great hurry.

On top of which, Apple spent much of 2018 and 2019 in legal tussles with Qualcomm – the company that’s set to make the 5G modems for the initial 5G iPhones. That’s all settled now, but may well have delayed things. As might the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the result of which is the iPhone 5G has likely been delayed, as explained above.

What other 5G phones are there?

While there’s no 5G iPhone just yet, there’s a whole lot of 5G Android phones, with more landing all the time.

These include the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 5GOnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus NordMoto G 5G PlusSamsung Galaxy A90 5GHuawei P40 range, and more. Others are also likely to arrive before the iPhone 5G.

Compare 5G phone deals

Should I wait for an iPhone 5G?

That really depends on how set on having an iPhone you are. If you’re considering upgrading your handset but will only buy Apple then yes, it’s probably worth waiting.

Unless you want to save money by buying the budget (and 4G) iPhone SE (2020), it’s worth holding out for the iPhone 12 range in September or October, as these phones are likely to be big upgrades on the iPhone 11 range (which itself is a year old now).

Those upgrades include but aren’t limited to 5G – you can expect more power, new features, and likely upgrades to the camera too. But the 5G aspect in particular makes them worth waiting for as that will ensure the phones are future-proofed for years to come, whereas 4G handsets could soon start to feel a bit dated and limited.

Having said that, if you’re open to Android then there’s really no need to wait, as many of the best Android handsets – such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 ranges – already support 5G. There are also a number of 5G Android handsets (such as the OnePlus Nord) that are a lot cheaper than the iPhone 5G is likely to be, so they can be a more affordable option.

James Rogerson
About James Rogerson

Sub-Editor at 5G.co.uk

James is sub-editor at both 5G.co.uk and TechRadar. Also works as a researcher/ technical writer for 5G.co.uk and several other websites including TechRadar, T3, Smart TV Radar, 3G.co.uk with work on the web, in print and on TV.

View more posts by James Rogerson >

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