Rumour: Is Apple Canning Its Own 5G Modem Development?

Rumour: Is Apple Canning Its Own 5G Modem Development?

Apple very proudly touts just how much of its own Apple-designed silicon sits within the framework of just about every product it sells. If you buy any MacBook, iMac or Mac Mini these days, it’s got an Apple Silicon M chip in it. Buy Airpods Pro, and they’ll have Apple’s own H2 chips in them.

Buy an iPhone, and it’ll have an Apple A series chip – for the iPhone 15 family, either the A16 Bionic or A17 Pro.

It’s all one big happy Apple-designed family under the hood, right?

Not quite. One significant area where Apple has had to get in external under-the-hood components for its iPhone family has been in the 5G modem space, where it’s been using Qualcomm’s modems to provide 5G functionality.

Apple’s made no real secret of its ambitions to take the internal designs for the iPhone’s radio chips as much in-house as it can for years now, most notably hiring away Intel modem developers before outright buying Intel’s 5G business for its own purposes back in 2019.

That was, in technology terms, a long time ago, and it’s not as though any iPhones have come out with 5G modems under the hood bearing that distinctive Apple logo, despite some reported plans that it would do so in 2023. Check the calendar yourself if you must; that one’s not going to happen.

However, according to new reports cited by MacRumors, Apple might be pulling out of developing its own 5G modems altogether.

There’s a fairly big caveat sitting on “might” there, because it’s not like this stems from an interview with Tim Cook or anything like that. Instead, the report is sourced from a Korean news aggregation account which claims (by way of Google Translate, so forgive me, linguistic gods)

It is said that Apple has entered the phase of reorganizing its continued investment in its own 5G modem development department and personnel over the past few years . In other words, attempts to install it in the 4th generation iPhone SE or to develop its own modem appear to have failed and are expected to be completely eliminated.

That’s further backed up – as much as these early stage Apple rumours are backed up – by leaker @Tech_Reve on Twitter/X.

Naturally, Apple hasn’t said anything about its 5G modem developments at all, so only time will tell if it’s actually true, though its continued investment in in-house chips was reported earlier this month to be running into troubles, citing issues with keeping pace with competitors without stepping into patent dispute territory.

It was also suggested that one of Apple’s 5G chips lacked support for mmWave frequencies – which presumably means it might be happy to sell that model in Australia – and also with issues with the legacy Intel code that it was using after it took over its modem business.

Whether the reports do bear out or not, we’re not likely to see any Apple-based 5G modem action for at least a few years now, with Qualcomm having tied up a modem supply agreement earlier this year that would see it supplying modems to Apple through to at least 2026.


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