Digital Photography Review

what is the thing on the side of iphone 12

12

What’s the mysterious, black, oval-shaped indentation below the power button on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro? It’s a window — not to the iPhone’s soul, but to its 5G mmWave antenna.

oval hole on side of iphone 12

To Understand Why It’s There, You Need To Know The Truth About 5G

People wanted faster speeds. When Verizon says the answer is 5G, they’re telling the truth.

Other people wanted their cell phone signal to travel over long distances. When T-Mobile says that 5G is the answer, they’re also telling the truth.

According to the “laws of physics”, however, it turns out that the crazy fast speeds you see in Verizon’s commercials can’t work over the crazy long distances you see in T-Mobile’s commercials. So how can both companies be telling the truth?

GoldiPhones And The Three Bands: High-Band, Mid-Band, and Low-Band

High-band 5G is super fast, but it doesn’t go through walls. (Seriously.) Low-band 5G works over long distances, but in a lot of places, it isn’t even as fast as 4G. Mid-band is a mix of the two, but we’re years away from seeing any carrier roll that out.

The difference between bands comes down to the frequencies at which they operate. High-band 5G, otherwise known as millimeter-wave 5G (or mmWave), operates at around 35 GHz, or 35 billion cycles per second. Low-band 5G operates at 600 MHz, or 600 million cycles per second. The lower the frequency, the slower the speeds — but the farther the signal travels.

5G, in truth, is a mesh of these three kinds of networks. The only way to achieve high speeds and great coverage was to combine a bunch of different technologies, and it’s a lot easier for companies to sell “5G” than try to explain the differences.

Back To The iPhone 12 & 12 Pro

For a phone to fully support 5G, it has to support a lot of cellular network bands. Fortunately for Apple and other cell phone manufacturers, recent advancements by Qualcomm allow all types of high-band, super-fast mmWave 5G to work with a single antenna. That antenna is a bit wider than a penny, and so is the window on the side of your iPhone. Coincidence? I think not.

Why iPhone 12 & 12 Pro Have A Hole In The Side

The reason for the gray oval-shaped hole in the side of your iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro is that ultra-fast, mmWave 5G is easily blocked by hands, clothes, and especially metal phone cases. The oval hole underneath the power button is a window that allows 5G signals to pass through the case.

On the other side of the oval hole is a Qualcomm QTM052 5G antenna module.

qualcomm 5g modem qtm052

Some phone manufacturers integrate several of these antennas into their phones, each connecting to a single Snapdragon X50 modem. Are more Qualcomm QTM052 antennas hiding elsewhere inside the iPhone 12? Perhaps.

Finally, Apple Includes Windows On Their New iPhones

Rest assured that the window to your iPhone’s 5G mmWave antenna is there for good reason. It’s a hole that increases the range of your iPhone’s 5G antenna. So maybe instead of losing your 5G signal 6 steps down the subway stairs, you’ll lose it 10 steps down. Thanks, Apple!

Photo credit: Disassembled iPhone shots from topdeblogs.com’s live teardown video stream. Qualcomm antenna chip from topdeblogs.com.

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