iPhone 12 surprise — only this model will reportedly get fastest 5G

iPhone 12 render by PhoneArena
(Image credit: Phone Arena)

The iPhone 12 will be Apple’s first phone ever to support 5G, and all four models are expected to tap into those networks. But a new report says that only a single new iPhone 12 handset will support the fastest 5G standard.

According to Fast Company, just the iPhone 12 Pro Max will offer mmWave 5G, which has offered the fastest download speeds in our testing and is available through Verizon's 5G network in the U.S. The other three iPhone 12 devices will support sub 6-GHz 5G, which offers longer range but slower speeds.

Fast Company's source says that only the largest phone in the new lineup has room for the special antenna required to connect to mmWave networks, as well as the larger battery needed to compensate for the battery drain.

It was previously rumored that Apple would offer mwWave 5G on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, leaving the cheaper iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max to get sub 6-Ghz 5G. But now it seems that only the iPhone 12 Pro Max will get mmWave.

iPhone 12 5G: mmWave vs sub 6-GHz

mmWave has delivered blazing 1Gbps downloads in some of our 5G testing, but it also has limited range and requires line of sight to nearby nodes. mmWave 5G also doesn’t reach indoors. 

In the U.S., Verizon is the leader when it comes to mmWave 5G deployments. AT&T and T-Mobile have thus far focused mostly on sub 6-GHz 5G, which offers a wider range than mmWave but considerably slower speeds. 

Another report from this week seems to back up what Fast Company is saying. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), Apple will ship only 4 to 6 million iPhone 12 devices with mmWave modems this year. This is less than the “market consensus of 10-20 million” units.

According to Kuo, COVID-19 has limited the number of global 5G millimeter wave base stations. So it would make sense that Apple would make fewer iPhone 12 models with mmWave 5G support.

The iPhone 12 is expected to launch this October, as Apple has already confirmed a delay of a few weeks. But it’s not clear when Apple will hold its event.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.