Apple’s development of its own 5G modem has reportedly failed, forcing the company to rely heavily on suppliers for the iPhone 15 generation by 2023. Bad news for Apple, but excellent news for Qualcomm, which is destined to get the full contract.
This is all according to supply-chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid reputation for predicting Apple’s launch, but is particularly good at this sort of industry/supplier news. Kuo tweeted yesterday that, according to his latest research, “Apple’s own iPhone 5G modem chip development be able to failed” (our emphasis) and this will increase Qualcomm’s share of the late 2023 iPhone supply contract from an estimated 20 percent to 100 percent.
Kuo goes on to explain the potentially life-saving significance of this news to Qualcomm, which now has time to grow its other businesses to make up for the loss of the iPhone contract when Apple eventually rolls out its own modem. But Macworld readers will be more interested in the effect on Apple.
We knew the company had been working on an in-house 5G modem since 2020, and even suspected it before the company took over Intel’s modem business in 2019. This was always a logical step, bringing in expertise and enabling Apple to better optimize costs, hardware and software, and improve performance and energy efficiency, just like Apple’s silicon.
The likely delay of the modem rollout by another year is a blow to Apple’s iPhone plans, leaving the company’s engineers with fewer options — they’ll just have to take what Qualcomm offers — and potentially increase production costs (or occurrence) of its handsets. But the ramifications could also affect other product lines, as the Apple Watch and MacBook are also expected to benefit from the development. The integration of a 5G modem in the S-chip of the Apple Watch can now also be delayed by a generation.
Kuo’s prediction comes as the Supreme Court rejects Apple’s request to bring its battle with Qualcomm back to trial, as per this Reuters report. In the dispute between Apple and Qualcomm over licensing fees, the companies competed in court from 2017 to 2019 until both companies reached a settlement in Qualcomm’s favor, and a six-year license agreement that allows Apple to continue using Qualcomm chips in iPhones until 2025.
The Apple 5G modem thus remains a long-range target. Long before we get to that point, we can look ahead to the late 2022 iPhones, which are expected to launch in September and will feature Qualcomm modems instead. Check out our iPhone 14 super guide for the latest gossip.