Apple’s 5G modems are three years behind Qualcomm’s chips – WSJ
For years, insiders have been talking about Apple’s plans to abandon third-party communication modules in favor of its own. However, the task turned out to be more complicated than the company thought. That’s why the iPhone 15 line is still connected to Qualcomm, and the contract between the companies was recently extended until at least 2026.
AppleInsider reminds that in 2019, Apple paid $1 billion for Intel’s mobile modem business (earlier, in 2010, Intel itself acquired the relevant part of the German company Infineon for $1.4 billion). Since then, Apple has been trying to supplement the iPhone with its own communication.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple continues to invest billions in the project, but faces problems of various kinds – from “expected technical difficulties” to “unexpected management issues.”
Former Apple wireless director Jaydeep Ranade said: “It’s ridiculous to think that they can also build a modem just because they make the best chips in the world.” Serge Willenegger, a former Qualcomm executive, also noted: “These delays indicate that Apple did not expect the complexity of the effort. Cellular is a monster.”
In turn, former Apple HR executive Chris Deaver confirmed to the WSJ that Apple launched the project in 2018. It is called Sinope. (It is noted that neither Willenegger nor Ranade was involved in it.)
It was then that Apple and Qualcomm were engaged in a legal battle that ended a year later. At the same time, Apple could not agree on further cooperation with Intel and its own modem production. At the time, Ruben Caballero, the longtime head of the wireless communications department, remained committed to working with Intel, while Senior Vice President of Hardware Technology Johnny Sruji insisted on a proprietary solution. In 2019, Mr. Caballero left the company, and a large part of his team came under Mr. Sruji’s leadership. Other specialists were separated into a hardware group to work on related projects, such as antenna design.
Insiders said this created new problems. For example, one of the top managers on Sruji’s team had no experience with wireless technology at all. Due to the lack of wireless experience of the other executives, rigid and unrealistic deadlines were set.
And that was the case at least until 2022, when the first prototypes began testing. They lost out to competitive Android solutions in terms of 5G speed. People familiar with the figures said that Apple’s chips are currently three years behind Qualcomm’s products.
Earlier, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told about the start of the fourth generation iPhone SE test. Later he added that this particular smartphone served as a “test platform” for Apple’s own modems. And more recent insights say that the new SE will still get a new display, Action button, USB-C, and Face ID. However, given the situation with the development of in-house modems, it is unlikely that it will have a proprietary solution.