DigiTimes: Apple to Launch MacBooks with Cellular 5G Connectivity in Second Half of 2020

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Apple is working on a range of MacBooks with 5G cellular connectivity for launch as early as next year, claims a new report today by DigiTimes.


According to the hit-and-miss Taiwanese publication, Lenovo, HP, and Dell will kick off the 5G laptop market later this year, and Apple is set to follow with its own high-speed cellular notebook in the second half of 2020.
The world's top-3 notebook vendors Lenovo, HP and Dell are set to introduce their first 5G models in the second half of 2019, and Apple is also expected to roll out its 5G MacBook series in the second half of 2020, according to industry sources.
The English version of the DigiTimes story is currently paywalled, so the following details are based on a machine-translation of the same report on DigiTimes Taiwan.

DigiTimes' notebook supply chain connections claim that Apple has finalized its integrated 5G MacBook design and though it did so later than other vendors, its 5G transceiver offers higher efficiency and superior high-speed transmission rates than rival designs.

Apple is said to be achieving better 5G performance in its notebook designs through the use of a ceramic antenna board, which costs six times that of a regular metal antenna board but offers twice the transmission and reception efficiency. Another reason a 5G-enabled MacBook will be high-cost is reportedly down to the case: A metal chassis shields the 5G signal, meaning the notebook will require 13 to 15 antennas, where a 5G smartphone typically uses 11.

This is the first time we've heard anything about Apple planning to launch a MacBook or MacBook Pro with 5G, and DigiTimes has a mixed track record in relation to reporting on Apple's future plans, so it's best to treat its rumors with some skepticism until the info is corroborated by additional sources.

That said, Apple has explored the possibility of developing MacBooks with cellular connectivity in the past. Indeed, the company reportedly considered launching a MacBook Air with 3G connectivity, but former CEO Steve Jobs said in 2008 that Apple decided against it, since it would take up too much room in the case and would lock customers to a specific carrier.

Apple patent describing MacBook with integrated LTE

Despite retreating from the idea, Apple received approval for two patents in 2016 that would enable it to add LTE connectivity to its MacBooks. Both describe the use of an installed "cavity" antenna that runs parallel with the notebook's hinge which could be used for long-range communications such as cellular telephone bands. The patents also describe other uses including near-field communications (NFC), light-based wireless connectivity, satellite navigation, and more.

While it appears that Apple and Qualcomm's multi-year licensing and chipset supply agreement will result in Qualcomm supplying modems for the first 5G-enabled iPhones, expected to launch in 2020, multiple reports have indicated that Apple is on the path to developing its own cellular modems.

Indeed, Apple recently announced that it plans to acquire the majority of Intel's smartphone modem business, subject to regulatory approvals. The acquisition will certainly benefit Apple's cellular technologies team, but whether it will factor in on any plans for a series of 5G MacBooks remains to be seen.

Article Link: DigiTimes: Apple to Launch MacBooks with Cellular 5G Connectivity in Second Half of 2020
 

Manzanito

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I don’t know if it’s a feature I’d be willing to pay for. On the rare ocassions when I don’t have wifi available I just share my iPhone’s connectivity, which works like a charm.

I don’t have a problem with apple offering it, though, as long as it’s optional like the iPads.
 

manu chao

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I wonder why Apple would do this though. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock in. Making their devices more autonomous seems to achieve exactly the opposite...
I wonder why Apple would release iPads with cellular modems. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock-in.

(BTW, I don't think there is much of a difference between tethering a MacBook to an iPhone, an Android phone or a Mophie type device.)
 

jlc1978

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I wonder why Apple would do this though. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock in. Making their devices more autonomous seems to achieve exactly the opposite...
Many tethering plans have data limits even if you have unlimited data, and long term use requires plugging in the phone. 5G has the potential to become the internet connectivity solution for many users and replace wired connections at home or in an office. You could simply use your laptop at home or on the go with the same account.
 

Glockworkorange

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I wonder why Apple would do this though. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock in. Making their devices more autonomous seems to achieve exactly the opposite...
I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s my understanding the real thing stopping them from including modems is the licensing cost to QUALCOMM. I guess battery/power management as well.

Anyway, I think this rumor is trash.
 

MoreRumors?

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This is a good option for those who travel a lot on business with laptops. Even though 5G won't be widespread until probably at least another 5 years, personally I would choose this over an iPad w/ WiFi + Cellular.
 

jlc1978

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I wonder why Apple would release iPads with cellular modems. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock-in.
For me it's simple: for an extra $10 I get unlimited data on my iPad. If I don't have my phone, or its battery is dead, I can still connect, and call people with Skype.
I don’t have a problem with apple offering it, though, as long as it’s optional like the iPads.
I would think they would simply to keep price points more affordable; at least by Apple standards.
 

MrGimper

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This is a good option for those who travel a lot on business with laptops. Even though 5G won't be widespread until probably at least another 5 years, personally I would choose this over an iPad w/ WiFi + Cellular.
For a lot of people who travel, the ability to easily swap SIM/eSIM between various local providers will probably be just as important as the 5G connectivity itself.
 

jlc1978

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I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s my understanding the real thing stopping them from including modems is the licensing cost to QUALCOMM. I guess battery/power management as well.

Anyway, I think this rumor is trash.
Maybe, but 5G has the potential to be a game changer. Cell phone companies would be compete with cable for office/home connectivity since the last mile would be delivered via radio not cable. I think TMob's purchase of a TV provider is part of an overall plan to compete with cable for connectivity and content. ATT/Time Warner will be there as well. It also means companies like Alphabet can get into the ISP game by leasing tower space or buying bandwidth; thus delivering things like search and YouTube TV directly as well.

At some point I expect to see devices, such as Apple TV, Smart Tvs, having 5G built in and bypassing WiFi altogether; if 5G lives up to its speed promises.
 

windywalks

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I wonder why Apple would release iPads with cellular modems. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock-in.

(BTW, I don't think there is much of a difference between tethering a MacBook to an iPhone, an Android phone or a Mophie type device.)
It works without any input from the user since Catalina. Personal Hotspot gets automatically enabled on the associated iPhone or iPad.

The reasoning behind not including this type of connectivity on MacBooks was probably the less than universal nature of modem chips and the bands they support, insufficient battery life and the fact that up until the 12.9 inch iPad Pro every MacBook has been much bigger than any iOS device.

With that being said - I see no reason whatsoever for offering a MacBook with a modem built it. That way Apple gets to up-sell you on an iPhone as well.

The tethering in Catalina works well enough I don't even notice it, the connection negotiates itself.
 
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wigby

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I wonder why Apple would do this though. Tethering through the iPhone works basically flawless and is another good selling point for their eco system lock in. Making their devices more autonomous seems to achieve exactly the opposite...
Putting 5G into an iPhone is a lot more difficult than putting 5G into a laptop in terms of space, heat, battery life and antenna design especially now that Apple purchased their own 5G modem team along with thousands of patents. That means they can now finally charge a premium for cellular connectivity in a laptop without having to pay Qualcomm royalties based on that laptop's MSRP.