Sunday, September 24, 2023

Apple’s own 5G modems may come to iPhone later than expected

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Apple will once again rely on Qualcomm modems for its 2023 iPhones, Qualcomm said during its Q4 2022 earnings call, meaning we’ll have to wait a while for Apple to introduce its long-trumped-up 5G custom modem.

Nikkei reported in 2021 that Apple was looking for its own 5G modem in partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) in 2023, and Qualcomm had previously assumed it would account for 20 percent of modem orders for the 2023 iPhones. However, during Wednesday’s call, Qualcomm CFO Akash Palkhiwala said the company now expects to have “the vast majority of its share of 5G modems before the iPhone’s 2023 launch.”

Apple bought “the majority” of Intel’s smartphone modem business three months after its surprise 2019 settlement with Qualcomm, so it’s no secret that the company is working on its own modems. After the success of many custom chips for things like iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches, it’s no surprise that Apple would want to create its own version of one of the most important parts of a smartphone.

But Apple’s efforts have reportedly run into some problems. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported: in June that Qualcomm would be the exclusive supplier of 5G chips for the 2023 iPhones after modem chip development “may have failed”, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said: in July that Apple’s modem prototypes have overheated “for the past year or so.” Whatever goes on behind the scenes, it all means Qualcomm is going to be a big supplier for another set of iPhones, which could be a boon after what may be a rough holiday season this year.

Qualcomm assumes “minimum contribution of Apple product revenues in fiscal 25,” Palkhiwala said during Wednesday’s call, which could indicate Apple’s own modems may not appear until 2025.

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