Apple Bringing More Chip Development In House

iphone5_imageApple is planning on creating an R&D team to develop baseband chips, which are used to control a device's radio functions like modulation, signal generation and more, for future iPhones in-house, according to a new report from DigiTimes. The baseband chip is separate from the A7 processor, which Apple already designs with an in-house team.
Apple reportedly plans to form a R&D team to develop baseband processors for use in iPhones to be released in 2015 and will place the baseband chip orders with Samsung Electronics and Globalfoundries, according to industry sources.
Qualcomm is currently the company that Apple acquires its baseband chips from, although they're produced in mass quantities at Apple manufacturing partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Recently, Apple has made moves to bring more chip development in-house, including rumors of an effort to purchase a unit of Renesas Electronics that creates chips for smartphone displays. It also acquired low-power wireless chip provider Passif Semiconductor, whose chips could be used to improve battery life in wearables, like Apple's rumored iWatch.

The moves are a part of Apple's effort to control its own production supplies and core technologies, and include partnerships like Apple's deal with GT Advanced, which will provide the Cupertino company with massive supplies of sapphire displays.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

Posted: 25 weeks ago

Although I love that apple exerts such care and control over their hardware, I do wonder if it's a bit dangerous for them to be investing so heavily in the R/D for such specific components (stretching themselves too thin?). Then again, the hardware software combo is one of their strengths and they should be focusing on it.


Bringing it all in house does bring benefits especially if the can get software based modulation working which means a single product line supporting every frequency imaginable out of the box.
Rating: 4 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

On the hardware side, Apple is doing great. It's the software side they've stretched themselves a bit too thin.


Um what? Apple is doing well on both ends.
Rating: 2 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

Apple was late to LTE for the same reason they didn't include 3G in the first iPhone: they wanted to keep their build costs down. Nothing changed as far as power requirements in between.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but at the time of creating the iPhone 4, there was no single chip radio solution for normal 2G/3G and LTE. The thunderbolt had multiple chips. So yes, it kept build costs down, but it also simplified the PCB and kept it smaller and saved on power consumption. It wasn't only cost.
Rating: 2 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

... By controlling the chip they can get ahead of this and maybe integrate into their SoC to gain efficiencies.


Possibly... or it's possible the opposite may be occuring. That is, Qualcomm maybe working on integrating their baseband products closer to Snapdragon, to differentiate itself over it's competitors. And if this is the direction it's going then Apple may need plan ahead by building their own.
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

Qualcomm is the standard everyone uses. So by bringing it in-house, they can create their own standard. Another point of separation/differentiation from the rest. On the phone side it seems they have done this at every component.


Qualcomm is the standard because they own some major patents.

Currently, Apple pays Qualcomm between $16 - $30 for broadband chips, PLUS another ~3.2% of the cost of each iPhone from Foxconn... about $8... for license fees.

Apple might be able to save money on the silicon, but the license fees would be at least the same, and actually probably go UP since there'd be no discount for also buying the chip.

I remember when they were late to LTE, because they did not think the Qualcomm chip was small enough or energy efficient enough. By controlling the chip they can get ahead of this and maybe integrate into their SoC to gain efficiencies.


Apple was late to LTE for the same reason they didn't include 3G in the first iPhone: they wanted to keep their build costs down. Nothing changed as far as power requirements in between.
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago
A team of 10, 15 people at a cost of roughly $5 million/year to control timing and production cycle is not a bad thing. To rely on someone else for something easy as the radio baseband is never a good thing considering what they have accomplished with the A7 chip. It hampers their ability to create certain market niche, such as China.
Next product with in-house chip design might be the MBA in 2015.
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago
This is great news for consumers. It proves Apple is committed to bringing us even greater coupling of hardware and software for the best product experiences. I'm excited to see these new technologies in the next generation iPhone and iPad.
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

A team of 10, 15 people at a cost of roughly $5 million/year to control timing and production cycle is not a bad thing.

If Apple can have a team of only 10 or 15 people develop and test a chip that takes hundreds of engineers in other companies, it should definitely do it. :)
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago
The problem with Apple's approach is interoperability. When a qualcomm chip goes through testing, it's a known quantity that's used by lots and lots of people. If Apple goes its own way it loses that base of testers and troubleshooters.

That would have caused problems back in the day, when iPhones apparently had some incorrect settings. That sort of debugging would be really difficult if Apple went its own way. With a Qualcomm chip, you can at least say that it's not the chip because other people's phones work fine. With Apple having its own chip, you're SOL when it comes to knowing what the issue is.
Rating: 1 Votes
Posted: 25 weeks ago

Possibly... or it's possible the opposite may be occuring. That is, Qualcomm maybe working on integrating their baseband products closer to Snapdragon, to differentiate itself over it's competitors. And if this is the direction it's going then Apple may need plan ahead by building their own.


I wonder if Apple will build full baseband or just common baseband?
They could build all the basic fallback standards for LTE then they could limit second chip to just covering local standards.

Wasn't there an Apple patent of a microslot antennas using micro channels in the casing?
apples-microslot-antennas-are-invisible-to-the-naked-eye-could-see-use-in-future-iphones (apples-microslot-antennas-are-invisible-to-the-naked-eye-could-see-use-in-future-iphones)

I wonder if part of this more is to better interface with a new antenna design.
Rating: 1 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]