Apple is expected to unveil its first 5G iPhone at an event Tuesday... but blazing network speeds promised by the next-generation wireless technology for things like augmented reality, real-time cloud gaming and improved movie watching may not be available to most Americans.
The issue lies with America's mobile carriers. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile aren't totally up to speed on their 5G nationwide rollouts, leaving many users stuck on networks that are somewhat faster than 4G - but not as fast as 5G speeds that are theoretically 10 to 20 times faster.
Apple, which is expected to unveil what analysts are calling the iPhone12 at a virtual event on Tuesday, will need to walk a tightrope between enticing consumers to upgrade their phones while not over-promising what 5G can do today.
Getting U.S. mobile networks to deliver what is promised by 5G is still years away. That means developers haven't been in a rush to create apps for a 5G world. Without dazzling apps to drive demand - some Americans may opt not to upgrade to a pricey 5G iPhone...A different scenario from the upgrade to 4G when flashy tweaks to Facebook's mobile app and Alphabet's YouTube convinced users to ditch slower devices.
But Apple can't wait for the networks or app developers to catch up. Apple is currently running behind rivals Samsung and Huawei. The rivals are already onto their second 5G models to take advantage of networks in countries where faster speeds are a reality right now like South Korea and China.