Despite the acquisition of a modem specialist in 2019, Apple still cannot design them in-house. The firm must call on Qualcomm to help it with the next iPhones.
Since the iPhone 4, one of Apple’s winning strategies has been to internalize as many technologies as possible to master its products from start to finish, from the chip to the software.
First there were processors, then graphics chips and now Apple is working on its modems. It is an essential component of the smartphone since it makes it possible to capture the 3G, 4G or 5G cellular network and therefore the connection to the Internet.
The takeover of Intel modems was not enough
In 2019, Apple bought out Intel’s modem business. The latter offered alternative modems to those of Qualcomm on certain iPhone models. They were deemed less efficient than Qualcomm’s solution, but allowed for supplier diversification.
More than three years later, the design of Apple modems is still going badly, as the media reports Bloomberg. Qualcomm should therefore provide modems for “a large majority of iPhones in 2023“.
The statement comes from Qualcomm on the sidelines of its financial results. The firm expected to lose the iPhone market like Intel lost the Mac market, but was pleasantly surprised to understand that it would keep its large majority for 2023.
We do not know in detail the difficulties of Apple with its own modems. However, this reveals that these are advanced technologies that are difficult to master. Beyond the modem, there are issues of frequency management by the device and by the antennas. Apple probably wants to avoid a new Antenna Gate, a problem that affected the iPhone 4 in its time.
Apple and Qualcomm still believe in it
Despite the difficulties in designing its own modems, Apple continues to work on its own in-house developed solution. Qualcomm also continues to believe in it since the firm has announced that it expects to lose Apple as a customer in the years to come, probably by 2025.
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