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3 reasons Apple probably won't be first with 5G

Photo: Apple

All four major U.S. carriers are staking their claim to being first to 5G. Globally, the race is equally intense with Korea, China, Japan and the U.S. all trying to lead the pack.

Buzz: One mobile giant that's unlikely to be first to 5G is Apple. Historically, the company aims to be seen as an innovator in lots of areas, but with both 3G and 4G, Apple was at least a year behind some rivals.

Here are three big reasons why:

1. Battery

Typically the first phones on a new wireless standard have terrible battery life, in part because they are supporting new kinds of radios and relying on first-generation chips that haven't been optimized for power.

2. Compatibility

Apple typically likes to have as few models of the iPhone as possible. A new flavor of wireless typically means lots of different bands of spectrum and requires a lot of custom work for each network.

3. Independence

Apple has spent the last couple of years trying to be less dependent on Qualcomm for modem chips. Already it's opting to give up certain features in order to be able to allow the iPhone to use either Intel or Qualcomm chips. Supporting 5G out of the gate would risk making Apple more dependent again on its chip suppliers.

The bottom line: While this would make lots of sense for Apple, choosing to wait a bit on 5G could open the door for rivals, including Samsung, that are likely to aggressively adopt the new technology.

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