As fast as Apple adopted 5G support on the iPhone 12, the competition to integrate lightning-fast cellular speeds on notebooks is already in full swing. A freshly published patent indicates Microsoft’s intention to bolster the next wave of Surface Book devices with integrated 5G support.
This move would assist the acceleration of 5G adoption despite limited UK network coverage. Whilst tablet-laptop hybrids such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 currently utilise 5G, they aren’t leveraging the capabilities and power of fully-fledged notebooks like the mighty new M1 MacBook models.
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Microsoft could yet beat Apple to the punch if the new Surface Book takes advantage of the technology first. As the patent (opens in new tab) filed by Microsoft reveals, the cellular notebook would take advantage of a removable outer housing to provide 5G connectivity. Not too dissimilar from removable keyboards on hybrid devices, the shell could be easily swapped to offer variable network speeds.
As the mechanism remains in the patent stage for now, it is difficult to speculate whether removing and replacing these housings would be instant or cumbersome. From the patent, it appears the housing is connected to a receptacle port beneath the casing.
One severe issue this method could counteract is the effect 5G has on battery life, exacerbated in devices like the iPhone 12. The option to switch between 5G and WiFi shells at a moment’s notice would theoretically allow users to only use the former when absolutely necessary.
As the initial report notes, Microsoft filing the patent is no guarantee that it will be the first to market with a cellular notebook. Despite Apple publishing patents on an iPad keyboard and a MacBook featuring a detachable display, those innovations were adopted by Microsoft first with the Surface Book.
Therefore, it is down to the wire on who jumps the gun, or whether either company brings out a cellular notebook next year at all. An earlier report from Digitimes (opens in new tab) declared that a 5G MacBook would be on shelves this year — could this have been wrong all along or did the pandemic simply delay Apple’s plans?
If one thing is for certain, it is that 5G is not going anywhere anytime soon. With coverage quickly expanding and promises of a broader spectrum of devices adopting the technology, it won’t be long before 5G is the new baseline.