Apple won't have a 5G iPhone anytime soon, UBS says

  • There is "increasing potential that Apple may not be able to ship a 5G iPhone for 2020," UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri said.
  • The delay in part comes from the lack of a smartphone processing chip compatible with 5G, according to Arcuri.
A customer views an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s at a Reliance Digital store, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd., in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. Reliance Communications Ltd. is the first Indian carrier to sell Apples iPhone with a service contract. Reliance will offer customers the iPhone 5S and 5C a two-year contract with bundled data services. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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A customer views an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s at a Reliance Digital store, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd., in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. Reliance Communications Ltd. is the first Indian carrier to sell Apples iPhone with a service contract. Reliance will offer customers the iPhone 5S and 5C a two-year contract with bundled data services. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

UBS thinks the lack of a 5G-capable iPhone by next year is "not good" for Apple but the impact of the delay will likely be mitigated by the slowing speed customers are replacing old iPhones.

There is "increasing potential that Apple may not be able to ship a 5G iPhone for 2020," UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri said in a note to investors on Tuesday.

The delay in part comes from the lack of a smartphone processing chip compatible with 5G, according to Arcuri. UBS does not think Intel will be ready with a chip, while neither Samsung or MediaTek "are unlikely solutions" for Apple, Arcuri said. The analyst believes Apple is aiming for 2021, although that is still a "big technical hurdle."

While the lack of a 5G-capable iPhone may hurt Apple, Arcuri said a large number of users needing to replace old iPhones "should soften any potential impact."

UBS estimates iPhones have "an effective upgrade rate of ~3.4 years," Arcuri said. He added that Apple "remains steadfast in its estimate that actual upgrade rates are [less than] 3 years which suggest we are now actually below full replacement rates."

"Though lack of 5G phone next year would be a near-term headwind, our install base and replacement analysis suggests iPhone can ultimately grow over the longer term," Arcuri said.

UBS has a buy rating on Apple with a $215 a share price target.