Microsoft Surface Book could beat Apple MacBooks to the 5G punch

(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft has an innovative concept for how it might bring 5G connectivity to its Surface Book (or perhaps even other Surface devices), and the firm could be aiming to do so before Apple achieves the same feat with its MacBooks.

Patently Apple has floated the idea of Tim Cook’s company being in a tech race with Microsoft to get 5G support on board its laptops, after spotting a Microsoft patent.

Remember that Apple has been planning to introduce 5G to MacBooks for some time according to the rumor mill, and back in August 2019, there was speculation that this would happen in 2020.

Evidently that turned out not to be the case, although Apple has a fresh batch of M1-powered MacBooks coming in 2021, with rumored MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch versions, so perhaps these could have 5G (and they may also come with the much talked about Mini-LED screen).

However, the theory is that Microsoft might beat Apple to the 5G punch, given the patent which has emerged for a removable ‘housing panel’ for a future Surface Book.

The idea here is that a large section of the chassis can be removed and swapped out, with two different panels provided: one offering just standard Wi-Fi connectivity, and the other delivering 5G.

When you’re out and about, you could switch in the latter 5G module for speedy cellular connectivity, but otherwise, you could stick with the Wi-Fi one (which will use less battery). Those panels could be easily swapped using some kind of ‘receptacle port’, and it would be much like attaching a keyboard cover to the Surface device (or at least Microsoft would be aiming to make it similarly convenient).

Microsoft vs Apple

It’s certainly an interesting concept, but as ever the presence of a patent is far from a guarantee that this technology will ever be used in a Surface Book (or indeed other Microsoft device). The tech may not make it past the prototyping stage, although it’s certainly a clear enough indication that Microsoft is working to provide 5G support with Surface devices, as you might expect.

Apple could still be first to market with 5G-toting MacBooks, of course, but the fact that we haven’t heard anything from the rumor mill recently about the progress made along those lines casts some doubt on a 2021 debut for 5G with Apple laptops. Particularly as there is already a lot going on with these machines, by all accounts, in terms of Apple’s design revamp and the aforementioned Mini-LED display.


Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).