12 July 2021
Apple's iPhone lineup is known for using custom-made processors and GPUs but when it comes to modems, the company relies on third-party i.e. Qualcomm. Even the most recent iPhone 12 lineup includes 5G modems supplied by Qualcomm. However, there have been reports of the company looking to go down the custom route.
Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known market analyst, has published new research notes claiming that Apple is expected to debut custom-made 5G chips on iPhone in 2023 at the earliest. This is a different claim than a previous report that talked about a possible launch in 2022. It will surely be a dual-band 5G modem with support for both mmWave and Sub-6GHz networks.
Here is what Kuo said in the note:
"As Android sales in the high-end 5G phone market are sluggish, Qualcomm will be forced to compete for more orders in the low-end market to compensate for Apple’s order loss. When the supply constraints improve, MediaTek and Qualcomm will have less bargaining power over brands, resulting in significantly higher competitive pressure in the mid-to low- end market.”
The reports of Apple's plans for custom 5G chips first surfaced around 2019. It was the time when Apple found itself in a legal battle with Qualcomm over patent-related issues. Since then, it has been looking to reduce dependency on Qualcomm and even considering getting supplies from Intel. However, Intel ended up exiting the smartphone modem business altogether which was later acquired by Apple for about $1 billion.