iPhone handsets will contain Qualcomm 5G modems for years to come as Apple’s efforts to build its own have faltered, according to one in-the-know analyst.
Ming-Chi Kuo goes as far to say Apple’s attempts “may have failed” – at least in the short term, clearing the way for Qualcomm to continue supplying the company in the short and perhaps medium term.
While the iPhone 14 was expected to still be rocking Qualcomm modems, the iPhone 15 was another matter. Qualcomm itself had previously voiced expectations Apple would be able to supply 80% of its 5G modem needs itself by 2023, with the US chipmaker making-up the other 20%.
Kuo still believes Apple will get there eventually, but this delay will minimise the negative effects on Qualcomm losing approximately half of its mobile modem business.
(1/4)[Company Update] Qualcomm (QCOM.O)My latest survey indicates that Apple’s own iPhone 5G modem chip development may have failed, so Qualcomm will remain exclusive supplier for 5G chips of 2H23 new iPhones, with a 100% supply share (vs. company’s previous estimate of 20%).— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) June 28, 2022
In a further tweet, Kuo added: “I believe Apple will continue to develop its own 5G chips, but by the time Apple succeeds and can replace Qualcomm, Qualcomm’s other new businesses should have grown enough to significantly offset the negative impacts caused by the order loss of iPhone 5G chips.”
The delay is unlikely to have too great an effect on iPhone users, but Apple has long been attempting to build more of its own key components in-house, making it less reliant on external parties and the component, supply, and product roadmap issues that go hand-in-hand with those relationships.
On the Mac side of things, Apple has also benefitted greatly by switching from Intel to its homegrown Apple Silicon M1 (and now Apple M2) processors because the integrated nature of the entire system has boosted performance overall.
Ironically, Apple’s 5G modem efforts are underpinned by work done by Intel. Apple paid $1 billion for Intel’s modem business in 2019, including its talent and IP. That came around the same time as a bitter legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm, which was settled in the courts in terms deemed highly favourable to the latter.