Apple’s iPhone 12 Marks a Mainstream Breakthrough for 5G Technology

But current 5G speeds are still far from reaching full potential

iPhone 12 5G
Apple's new iPhone will now support 5G. Getty Images

Apple announced on Tuesday that the iPhone 12 will include 5G connectivity for the first time, marking an important turning point for the nascent next generation of wireless technology.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg delivered the widely anticipated news during Apple’s virtual launch event, at which the tech giant unveiled a thinner, smaller and lighter iteration of its flagship mobile device. Verizon also took the opportunity to announce that it would roll out 5G coverage nationwide for the first time starting on Tuesday.

“We can finally say 5G just got real,” Vestberg said at the event.

Integration with the nation’s dominant smartphone maker does indeed mark a major step forward in the race to 5G and mainstream popular awareness of what can sometimes be a wonky telecommunications concept. But even so, the level of 5G that will be possible with today’s networks and devices remains far from reaching what is widely considered to be the technology’s full potential.

While current 5G is incrementally faster than previous 4G and LTE service, the speeds the new generation will eventually bring to devices are expected to be more transformative, supporting a whole new market of connected devices from self-driving cars to virtual reality streaming and making it possible to download a feature-length film in a matter of seconds.

A recent report from research group NPD found that nine out of 10 Americans are now aware of 5G networks and their promised benefits–up from about 64% at the end of 2018. Less than one-fifth of NPD respondents, however, are aware of the nuances in the different spectrum bands that 5G offers—a major flashpoint in the marketing wars between the big U.S. carriers.

Verizon’s announcement on Tuesday also means that all three major wireless companies now have nationwide coverage, after AT&T and T-Mobile made similar moves in the past few months.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.