iPhone 13 could get this killer 5G upgrade

Image Credit: Ajay Suresh | Flickr CC by 2.0
(Image credit: Image Credit: Ajay Suresh | Flickr CC by 2.0)

The iPhone 12’s main selling point is its 5G connectivity. While it's the first iPhone to connect to next-gen networks, there's always room for improvement. Well, the iPhone 13 may get a crucial 5G upgrade.

That’s all thanks to the newly announced Qualcomm X65 modem, which can offer up to 10Gbps 5G speeds. And it may arrive just in time for the release of the iPhone 13.

The iPhone 12’s 5G is powered by the Qualcomm X55, which can handle data speeds up to 7.5Gbps. Unfortunately, the phone itself can’t hit those speeds in the U.S., since the 5G networks we have can’t actually get there yet.

Verizon’s mmWave network, which the carrier claims is the fastest in the world, has topped 1Gbps download speeds. In real world conditions that speed is going to be significantly lower, particularly since mmWave 5G doesn’t travel very far. So, we’re a far cry from being able to hit the 7.5Gbps limit of the X55 modem, let alone the 10Gbps speeds afforded by the X65.

That said, Verizon claims its network has the potential to hit speeds over 10Gbps, and the more hardware it can roll out the faster those speeds will get. Of course it’s all for nothing if phones don’t have suitable modems, so offering up to 10Gbps is a good way to ensure devices are ready for whatever happens to 5G over the next few years.

But, even if 5G still takes some time to catch up, Qualcomm has promised that the X65 has other benefits as well. Other components are being released for the “RF front end”, the system that actually gets cell signal to the modem. That includes a new envelope tracker, and an “AI-enhanced signal booster,” both of which can work together to improve signal strength and lower power consumption.

Considering our iPhone 12 testing found the phone could only last 8 hours and 25 minutes on 5G, compared to 10 hours and 23 minutes on 4G, reducing the power consumption would be a huge bonus.

Of course, Apple won’t be the only phone maker that uses the Qualcomm X65. But, as PCMag points out, the fact Apple uses its own chips and only buys discrete modems from Qualcomm means it may be able to utilize the new modem before anyone else.

After all, other phone makers have to wait for the modem to be integrated with Snapdragon chipsets. For that reason, we’re not likely to see other phones include the X65 before the start of 2022. With the iPhone 13 expected to arrive in September, it could give Apple an early advantage.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.