Apple's own 5G modem efforts are facing further delays

By Julie Clover

Apple continues to face challenges in its efforts to develop a 5G modem to replace Qualcomm's 5G modems in the iPhone and other products, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports.

In 2019, Apple acquired most of Intel's smartphone business and began a serious effort to develop its own modem hardware, but the project suffered multiple setbacks. Apple is still “a long way” from creating a chip that will perform as well or even better than rival Qualcomm's chips.

The Cupertino company initially wanted to have its own modem chip ready for use. by 2024 is a goal that's impossible to achieve, and now Gurman says Apple will also miss the extended spring 2025 launch schedule. For now, the modem chip has been delayed until late 2025 or early 2026, and Apple still plans to implement the technology in a version of the low-cost iPhone SE.

The modem chip's development is said to be in its early stages and “could be years behind competitors.” One version in development doesn't support the faster mmWave technology, and Apple also had problems with the Intel code it was working with. Rewriting was required, and adding new features broke existing features, plus Apple had to be careful not to infringe Qualcomm patents when designing the chip.

“Why did we decide we could take a failed design from Intel and how “How to succeed is a mystery,” an Apple employee allegedly told Gurman. Apple's hardware technology team is said to be “stretched” across many projects, leading to difficulties in fixing bugs.

Apple's dissatisfaction with the company Qualcomm showed up in 2017 when Apple sued Qualcomm for unfairly collecting royalties for technologies it had nothing to do with. Apple was of the opinion that Qualcomm was charging too much for its modem chip technology.

In the case of the ‌iPhone‌ 11, Apple was able to move away from using Qualcomm chips, instead equipping the iPhone with Intel chips, but the relationship between Intel and Apple was short-lived.After the launch of the ‌iPhone‌ On January 11, Apple wanted to continue using Intel chips in its first 5G iPhones, ‌iPhone‌ 12, but Intel was unable to produce 5G chips that met Apple's standards.

Instead, Apple was forced to settle a legal dispute with Qualcomm, and all litigation was dropped. Both companies signed a new contract, which was extended in September 2023. The latest deal with Qualcomm covers smartphone launches in 2024, 2025 and 2026 and will remain in effect until Apple delays its modem chip development.

While Apple has delayed its own modem chip, the company is continuing development as it seeks to complete a costly deal with Qualcomm. Apple's first modem chip will be standalone, but the company hopes to eventually develop a system-on-chip that would also eliminate suppliers like Broadcom and give it more control over component development.

Tags: Bloomberg, Qualcomm, Apple 5G modem [125 comments]

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