The picture around the new 5G iPhone 12 family is a complicated one, with Apple stating in its launch event that it was offering a global 5G device with multiple band support, although that’s only really true for the US-specific iPhone 12 models. Australian models of the iPhone 12 won’t work with faster 5G bands and as it turns out, Apple’s own support documents don’t seem to think that Australian carriers have 5G at all.
Apple’s claim in its launch event yesterday morning was that 5G was “about to get real”, but it looks as though “real” in this case really does only apply to the US models of its latest flagship range.
While it may have appeared to have launched 4 new iPhone 12 models – the iPhone 12 Mini, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max – the reality is that it’s actually launched a whopping 16 different phones, and that’s not using storage considerations as differentiation points.
There’s the models for the USA, the models for China – Apple’s long offered China-specific iPhone variants, so that’s no shock – and then models for Canada/Japan and finally the models for the rest of the world, including Australia. No, I don’t know what’s going on with 5G in Canada and Japan specifically that means that they get their own iPhones either.
Apple rather diligently lists the relevant 5G bands for each of these handsets on its support pages for the new phones, which you can access here.
That page also allows you to check for 5G compatibility by country, and that’s where things get interesting.
As you might expect, in the USA where the world’s most flexible and powerful 5G iPhone 12 models will be sold, it’s noted against a range of carriers as being available, as in the screen shot below:
There’s a long list of US carriers, not all of whom have 5G, but it’s present where it’s available, whether that carrier supports faster mmWave or slower sub-6Ghz 5G bands, or both. All clear, all easy to read and understand even if you do find 5G a little head-scratching at the best of times.
However, when you check what’s available in Australia, at this specific page at the time of writing, you get this. I’ve broken it into separate screenshots to get all 3 carrier listings in full:
Now, it’s 100% accurate that our local carriers offer services such as eSIM, visual voicemail and VoLTE, but what’s absolutely not mentioned there is any trace of 5G access at all, despite the fact that all 3 carriers have live, consumer-facing 5G networks in Australia.
You might forgive Apple a little in Vodafone’s case, where its major 5G access is all focused around Parramatta in Sydney. But for Optus and especially Telstra, which launched its 5G network here in Australia more than a year ago, it’s a puzzling exclusion.
That doesn’t mean that a 5G iPhone 12 that you pre-order from this Friday won’t work on 5G networks, presuming you have local access and your plan supports it, but it’s a noticeable gaffe for a company like Apple that’s usually so detail-oriented. I’ve reached out to Apple, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone for comment and will update when and if they respond.