5G will give the iPhone 12 an advantage over Android in an unlikely way: Price

Even though the iPhone 12 might not arrive until jack-o-lanterns start appearing on people’s doorsteps, we already know an awful lot about Apple’s plans. Most notably, there will reportedly be a fourth model this year joining the fray to expand the sizing options, with a new 5.4-inch model rumored to slide into the low-end slot and the flagship model expected to grow to 6.7 inches.

However, even with bigger screens and a switch away from LCD on all models, Jon Prosser reported late last month that prices aren’t going to change all that much:

  • 5.4-inch iPhone 12: $649
  • 6.1-inch iPhone 12: $749
  • 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099

Those prices mean you’re going to be getting more screen for the same amount of money with the Pro models, a better display for just $50 more than the iPhone 11, and a new lower starting price for budget-conscious buyers. On its own, that would be impressive, but the new iPhones are also all rumored to come equipped with 5G modems that will presumably support both T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz and Verizon’s mmWave networks.

oneplus 8 pro back Michael Simon/IDG

5G pushed the OnePlus 8 Pro into the thousand-dollar range for the first time.

Apple would be well within its rights to charge more for a 5G iPhone. Just this year, the S20 and OnePlus 8 Pro jumped by hundreds of dollars compared to their prior LTE equivalents, with the S20 climbing to a whopping $1,600 for the highest configuration. Assuming the iPhone capacity pricing stays the same, that’s $150 more than an iPhone 11 Pro Max with the same 512GB of storage. And the 8 Pro was the first OnePlus phone to cross the thousand-dollar barrier.

So why isn’t Apple increasing its prices like its Android peers? We all know that Apple loves its 38 percent profit margins, so it’s not about to take a hit on its biggest-selling device just to be nice. Rather, a combination of timing, smarts, and Apple’s longterm strategy is about to pay off in a big way.

Ready-ish for prime time

When Samsung and others launched the first 5G phones early last year, all eyes turned to Apple. But when the iPhone 11 came and went with nary a mention of 5G, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Not only were the first 5G phones big, expensive, and subject to overheating, the networks that they connected to were unreliable and limited. Apple rarely dives into new tech before it’s viable, and when the iPhone 11 was in development, 5G was anything but.

That’s changed over the past several months. While the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have delayed the rollout, the major carriers all have decent 5G maps across the U.S., with T-Mobile (and by extension, Sprint) boasting coast-to-coast coverage and Verizon expanding to dozens of cities and larger venues. But 5G deployment still pales in comparison to LTE. So even they opt for a 5G plan, most iPhone 12 users will still be using LTE.

note 10 5g speed Christopher Hebert/IDG

You can reach incredible speeds with 5G—when you can get it.

So Apple won’t be charging its users a premium for a service that they’re not even going to use. 5G is nice in theory and there’s something to be said for future-proofing, but Android phone makers are basically gouging their customers by adding a feature they don’t need, won’t really use, and might not even want. When the 5G iPhone launches at the same price as the 4G iPhone, the S20, OnePlus 8 Pro, and every other 5G Android phone that launches between now and then is going to seem even more overpriced than they are now.