Home / Apple / The iPhone 12’s mysterious track is a 5G mmWave antenna window – and it’s exclusive to the US

The iPhone 12’s mysterious track is a 5G mmWave antenna window – and it’s exclusive to the US

Apple has announced its very first 5G iPhones: iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. They range in price from $ 729 to well north of $ 1100, but – as Apple proudly announced during the press conference – even the Mini offers access to fast millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G networks.

As it turns out, this is why every new iPhone has this eye-catching track along the right edge. There is a special window for mmWave signals, and it seems to be designed so that users can see it visibly and perhaps avoid keeping it there for maximum signal strength.

Exciting, though, it does not appear to be a feature of iPhones that will be sold elsewhere in the world. Here is the same iPhone 1

2 Mini image from Apple UK:

Do you notice anything missing?
Image: Apple

And here’s a comparison image I whipped up of the iPhone 12 Pro Max from Apple’s US and UK websites, respectively:

Photos: Apple

There is a simple explanation behind the missing window, though: iPhone 12 does not support mmWave 5G outside the US. If you read Apple’s frequency band page, you’ll see that compatibility with bands n260 and n261 is simply lacking everywhere else in the world.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s a huge loss. mmWave 5G offers far higher speeds than the “nationwide” flavor of low band 5G that you also find out today, but the only other consistent thing about mmWave is its inconsistency, since you may not find any signal even outdoors from a street corner to it next. 5G is not a good reason to buy an iPhone this year, period. mmWave is definitely not.

But even if you’re looking forward to the multi-gigabit theoretical speeds of mmWave in your area because you live right under a tower, you should probably not worry about another “antenna gate” just because Apple felt the need to add this little window the phones. First, Apple has spent years building antennas in the bands of other phones without any problems, and it has already lived through the first scandal.

For another, modern phones do not rely so heavily on a single band to send and receive calls, and mmWave adds additional ties to your phone. Finally, you are also now armed with the knowledge of exactly where the mmWave window is.

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