iPhone 12 5G leak delivers bad news — here’s why

iPhone 12 design
(Image credit: DMJ4D)

The iPhone 12 is rumored to be 5G compatible, but it's not going to gain huge numbers of customers because of it.

It's a prediction made by AT&T's CEO Jeff McElfresh, who spoke on CNBC's "A View From the Top" on the topic of 5G adoption, and doesn't expect 5G connectivity will see people rush out to get a new iPhone when it reportedly arrives some time in October. 

While 5G has been creeping into flagship phones and cheaper devices over the past couple of years, it's been expected that there would be a huge pickup in 5G compatible device purchases once Apple launches its first 5G iPhones.

However much of the necessary 5G infrastructure, in both the U.S. where McElfresh resides, and the U.K. too, has yet to be rolled out beyond major cities. It means that while a 5G phone now would be a future-proof purchase, users aren't going to see an immediate benefit from having 5G compatibility unless they live in a small number of cities and towns with 5G.

The iPhone 12 is expected to have 5G compatibility across all four of its models, thanks to its new A14 Bionic chipset. However McElfresh believes that many users who pick up the phone won't make use of this ability and stick to using the cheaper 4G LTE service they're familiar with. 

“I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device, but I wouldn’t forecast that it’s going to be a massive event,” he said. “I also don’t think it’s going to be a non-event. I think customers, based on the pressures of the economy that we’re all facing today, will make a calculated decision as to what they want to do.“

For users who are definitively uninterested in 5G on their iPhone 12, there have been rumors of a 4G-only model that would be cheaper to purchase than the others. However this model is rumored to be arriving next year, meaning it'll be a long wait compared to a normal smartphone refresh cycle.

As for the rest of the iPhone 12 lineup, we're anticipating its reveal at an event next month. Aside from the new 5G chipsets, the phones' big new upgrades will be OLED displays on all models, and new LiDAR depth sensors in the rear camera blocks of the iPhone 12 Pro models.

There will be four models to choose from in total, the largest number Apple has offered for a single iPhone generation. The smallest, potentially called the iPhone 12 Mini, will be 5.4 inches across. There will be a standard iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro measuring 6.1 inches, with the iPhone 12 Pro Max being the largest iPhone offered yet at 6.7 inches.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.