What is that weird thing on all iPhone 12 models?

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So you may have missed a little detail during the big craze surrounding the launch of the iPhone 12 series yesterday. Apple announced a total of four new iPhones, and while they sure are stunning to look at, a small detail that we’ve never before seen on an iPhone caught our eye.

Right there, on the right-hand side of each new iPhone 12, below the power button, there is a small piece that looks like a SIM tray but isn’t. Its color or finish is fairly contrasting with the rest of the phone’s metal frame. So, this begs the question…

What is that thing there?

At first, we were a little confused, because it does look a lot like the little thing where you attach the Apple Pencil 2 to the iPad Pro. However, since Apple didn’t mention anything about Pencil support on the iPhone 12, we figured that doesn’t make for a good explanation.
The leading theory on- and off-line was that it has something to do with the 5G antenna. Remember the iPhone 12 series are the first iPhones with 5G support? We weren’t sure precisely what purpose it served, but it made sense to have some sort of a role with regards to letting those super-fast airwaves travel with the needed bandwidth through the phone’s metal frame. That theory solidified as we discovered that pictures of the iPhone 12 found on Apple’s stores outside the United States lacked that little detail. And, as it turned out that versions of the phone for non-US markets will not support mmWave 5G bands, the mystery seemed mostly solved.

Today, The Verge’s Nilay Patel also shared on Twitter that he’s received confirmation this little piece on the side of all iPhone 12 models serves as a window for the mmWave antenna.

The mmWave spectrum is in the upper end of the frequency range that 5G is designed to operate on. Data transfers using the mmWave spectrum can deliver the fastest speeds, but the waves tend to be very easily blocked. Our guess is that is why there needs to be a small plastic piece in the iPhone 12’s otherwise metal frame – to aid in the transfer of data using millimeter waves. Learn more about 5G support on the iPhone 12 here.

READ MORE ABOUT THE IPHONE 12

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