The shipment, which would be on the higher end for Apple, would represent the company's first major play in the next generation wireless network. 5G technology is capable of faster wireless internet connection and expected to play an important role in providing a foundation for a multitude of new technologies across a variety of industries.
The 5G iPhone lineup will be made up of three different models, sources told Nikkei, which will carry a 5G modem chip from Qualcomm. Apple and Qualcomm settled their patent dispute that spanned several countries in April, which was an important move for Apple to accelerate into 5G hardware.
Analysts say 5G iPhones could add a boost to Apple's iPhone sales, which have sagged in recent years as customers hold onto their own versions longer. A recent Piper Jaffray survey found that current U.S. iPhone users may be holding out on the newly-released iPhone 11 series, anticipating an upcoming 5G phone. Of the 1,050 current iPhone owners surveyed, the firm found 23% would upgrade to a $1,200 5G iPhone, up from 18% of respondents a few months earlier.
Apple lags behind rivals like Samsung, which has already released 5G phones. But 5G networks in the U.S. are still extremely limited, providing few use cases for the technology just yet.
In recent years, Apple has been trying to shift investors' focus from its iPhone unit sales to services revenue, knowing that customers are hanging onto their iPhones longer. The company stopped breaking out unit sales for the iPhone earlier this year and sang the praises of recurring subscription revenue. But the iPhone is still quite important to investors.
"We underscore that (like last year) near-term investor sentiment is likely to be shaped by iPhone revenues," Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a note last week.
Apple is set to report its fourth quarter 2019 earnings after the bell on Wednesday.
Read the full report at Nikkei.