iPhone 12 leak reveals 5G secret weapon against Samsung Galaxy Note 20

iPhone 12 Pro navy blue
(Image credit: Svetapple)

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro series promise a lot of enhancements to take on this year’s Android flagships, from a faster A14 Bionic chip and improved cameras to a wider array of models with a lower starting price.

But a new leak related to the iPhone 12’s 5G connectivity could give Apple a sizable advantage against the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, Google Pixel 5 and other handsets due to release this year.

As we shared yesterday, the iPhone 12 will reportedly use a new Qualcomm X60 5G modem. This is based on reporting by Digitimes, which has a mixed track record on iPhone rumors. But if true, the iPhone 12 could leapfrog the Note 20, which is expected to offer an older Qualcomm X55 modem.

So how is the X60 better? Introduced in February, the Snapdragon X60 5G modem is based on a 5nm processor, which means the modem itself should have a smaller footprint. We have seen reports that the iPhone 12 could be thinner than the iPhone 11, so this could be one of the ways Apple could pull this off.

More important, users should expect high power efficiency from this 5nm modem, which should result in longer battery life. The iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 11 both made our best phone battery life list with 11 hours and 54 minutes and 11 hours and 16 minutes of runtime, respectively, when surfing the web. But these results were over 4G. 

The 5G Samsung Galaxy S20 (9:31) and Galaxy S20 Plus (10:31) did not make our list — as neither 5G phone could crack 11 hours — but the Galaxy S20 Ultra (11:58) did with its massive 5,000 mAh battery. So it will be interesting to see if Apple can squeeze out more endurance from what we expect to be smaller batteries. The 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, for example, is rumored to come with a 4,400 mAh battery.

The other big upgrade for the Snapdragon X60 modem is the ability to aggregate both mmWave and sub-6GHz networks to achieve the “best of both worlds.” In other words, the iPhone 12 should be able to simultaneously tap into both bands to maximize speed and coverage.

What's not clear from the Digitimes report is whether the new modem will be limited to the iPhone 12 Pro series or if the regular iPhone 12 will get it as well. Previous reports point to the iPhone 12 supporting only sub-6GHz networks, while the iPhone 12 Pro line would run on both mmWave and sub-6GHz.

At the time of the the Snapdragon X60’s launch in February, Qualcomm said that “5G smartphones featuring Snapdragon X60 are expected to launch in early 2021.” But it’s possible that Apple could have scored an exclusive on the part, as customer sampling was expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020.

With the iPhone 12 reportedly delayed until October or maybe even November, there’s a chance that Apple could be first with this modem. And that would be a strong statement give that this is Apple’s first foray into 5G phones. 

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.