WSJ: Apple is way ahead in the 5G race, but…

From “Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia? Apple or Samsung? U.S. or China? Who’s Winning the 5G Races” posted Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. has taken an early lead in the 5G smartphone race, but analysts say maintaining it may be a challenge in the ultracompetitive market.

When Apple introduced its first 5G-capable smartphones to great fanfare a year ago, it was months behind rivals like Samsung Electronics. But by the time of this year’s iPhone 13 launch last month, Apple had taken the lead. It held 28.3% of the 5G phone market, as measured by shipments, in the first half of this year, according to IDC. Chinese company Guangdong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Corp. was second with a 14.4% share, just ahead of Samsung at 13.9% and another Chinese company, Vivo Mobile Communication Co., at 13.5%. China’s Xiaomi 1810 -2.54% was next at 11.2%.

Apple has “completely taken the 5G world by storm,” says Runar Bjørhovde, a research analyst at research firm Canalys. Apple’s success in the 5G market, he says, has been driven partly by its introduction of several different models, and by the fact that all iPhones 12th generation and beyond are made with 5G technology, meaning consumers looking to buy the latest iPhone have no choice but to buy a 5G model.

The arrival of 5G-capable iPhones also has fueled a boom in the broader market for 5G phones. About 18% of all smartphones being shipped were 5G-capable when the iPhone 12 made its debut. Within three months, 5G devices represented 32% of total handset shipments. The market for 5G smartphones is expected to grow from $161.4 billion last year to $361.8 billion this year, IDC estimates, and reach $454.7 billion by 2025.

Apple faces an uphill battle to hold on to its early success in the 5G segment, IDC research director Nabila Popal says. Nearly 70% of Apple’s entire phone shipments already are of 5G devices, whereas only 26% of all Samsung shipments and 30% of all Xiaomi shipments are 5G, giving the Asian rivals more room to grow. Mr. Bjørhovde says that as more lower-cost 5G handsets come to market they are likely to undercut Apple’s position…

Analysts say demand for 5G phones would be even stronger if a proverbial killer app had emerged—a feature that makes adopting the technology virtually indispensable. Demand for 4G phones was driven in part by apps like the ride-sharing and video-streaming services they enabled. “As of now, there’s nothing so unique in terms of use cases,” Ms. Popal says. But the continuing spread of 5G technology means that will likely change, she says.

My take: Killer app? Apple’s 5G phones didn’t need no killer app.


  1. Miguel Ancira said:
    Remind me again why I cancelled my subscription to the WSJ….oh yeah, that is why.

    October 13, 2021
  2. Bart Yee said:
    Wholly useless analysis. Oppo and Vivo are divisions of one company, BBK, and together they would hold 27.9% of the 5G market, principally in China, while Apple’s leading 28.3% is principally in the US and secondly in China.

    A more nuanced analysis would involve regional 5G numbers and percentages or price tier 5G markets which would also have regional variations. Some of that could be inferred from top 10 regional selling smartphones models with known 5G capability. Of course, throughout all of this is the status of country specific telecom 5G rollout and incentives to actually have 5G networks to really work with. This rollout is still in the early stages of a rolling 5 year process with the EU and India notably behind.

    As mentioned, since Apple adopted 5G in its last two iPhone generations, in 1-2 years, non-5G iPhones may not be for sale except in secondhand markets. Once the iPhone SE3 5G appears, the middle tier will have an Apple player. At this point, Apple will utilize as many Qualcomm 5G modems it can source. Others will have to rely on Qualcomm, Samsung, and MediaTek for 5G parts and that capacity is rapidly being gobbled up.

    October 13, 2021
  3. Jonny T said:
    Good take PED. Apple may well sell a quarter of a billion iPhones next year and 5G is just one factor, not THE factor. It doesn’t need to do any more or prove anything – let alone to the oddest ones at WSJ and elsewhere.

    October 13, 2021
  4. Fred Stein said:
    The three authors only show their own shallow understanding.

    Once again, the Tim Cook quote, “we don’t want to make the most. We want to make the best.”

    Apple has already won the race to be the best.

    With an Apple silicon 5G chip, they will expand their lead.

    October 13, 2021
  5. Phil Service said:
    For Apple, it’s never about market share. For sure, the Android makers will race to the bottom in order to gain 5G share, and in the process make little, if any, money. Meanwhile, Apple will sail along as the highly profitable company it is.

    October 13, 2021
  6. Michael Goldfeder said:
    A few years ago everyone was sounding the alarm that Apple was doomed as they didn’t have a 5G phone and would fall by the wayside. Now the narrative conveniently changes to: Apple will not be able to maintain their 5G edge in the absence of some killer App.

    The Apple resentment is always present with these flip flopping stories.

    October 13, 2021
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    My take: Killer app? Apple’s 5G phones didn’t need no killer app.

    The killer app will be the replacement of cable company internet access. 5G is faster and will be wherever you are, not to mention having to pay for two services.

    Looking forward to a 5G equipped AirPort Extreme.

    October 13, 2021
    • Steven Philips said:
      Gregg, are you saying that 5G satisfies your internet needs? Streaming movies etc? I have Verizon for cell, but have to have ZiplyFiber for internet because Verizon ditched that part of their service. IF Verizon 5G covered all of it then going through Verizon for my iPhone 13 purchase and upgrading to an “unlimited” plan – and ditching Ziply might be worth it. (I currently have the lowest use cell plan.)

      October 13, 2021

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