Qualcomm and Apple Partnership Crumbled Over Fears Apple Would Leak Qualcomm Software to Competitors

Apple and Qualcomm are embroiled in a bitter legal battle over licensing and royalty fees that's lasted for two years now and has led to the breakdown of the relationship between the two companies, but there may have been other factors in the breakup.

Leaked emails between Apple COO Jeff Williams and Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf seen by Bloomberg suggest the two companies may have cut ties over software access.


Williams wanted to continue to work with Qualcomm despite the legal battle, but Qualcomm accused Apple of leaking Qualcomm computer code needed to customize mobile chips. Williams offered to "firewall" the Apple engineers using the Qualcomm software and said nothing of value could be obtained from the code anyway.

"In my wildest imagination of some evil intention of Apple, I have trouble coming up with a real scenario where anything of significant value could be leaked based on this code," Williams wrote in September 2017.

Mollenkopf told Williams that he was concerned about protecting Qualcomm's proprietary information, and while he offered to provide software access to Apple, he asked Apple to commit to using Qualcomm chips in at least 50 percent of iPhones over the next two years.

Qualcomm in September 2018 accused Apple of stealing confidential information and trade secrets and passing it on to rival chipmaker Intel. From Qualcomm's lawsuit against Apple:

Although discovery is ongoing, it is clear that Apple's conduct went far beyond simply breaching the contract originally sued on. Indeed, it is now apparent Apple engaged in a years-long campaign of false promises, stealth and subterfuge designed to steal Qualcomm's confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of lower-quality modem chipsets, with the ultimate goal of eliminating Qualcomm's Apple-based business.

As Bloomberg points out, it appears the software dispute was a key reason the two companies cut ties, as both were willing to continue to work together despite the legal battle. The fight has heated up since then, though, with Qualcomm winning import bans on iPhone 7 and ‌iPhone‌ 8 models in China and Germany.

Qualcomm is in court this week facing an antitrust lawsuit levied against it by the FTC, with the FTC accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics and exorbitant licensing fees to remain the dominant baseband chip supplier.

Executives from many companies have testified against Qualcomm, including Jeff Williams. Earlier this week, Williams said that Qualcomm had refused to sell Apple chips for the 2018 ‌iPhone‌ models.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
19 months ago
Apple provided Qualcomm software development tools to Intel engineers.

I wonder how Apple would feel sharing its own ARM SoC development tools with Qualcomm or HiSilicon.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

I kinda understand Qualcomm's obsession with keeping their tech secret and proprietary, in the mobile industry there is Qualcomm and then there is everyone else. The problem is that Qualcomm's baseband processors and the software around them are so incredibly amazingly good they border on perfection. So, I really do hope that Apple and Qualcomm fix their squabbles and continue on the right track.

I agree. Qualcomm's product works extremely well. Qualcomm know they have an extremely good product so they are rightly in my opinion, exploiting it the best they can. Apple have done the same with many of their products and technology and patents so why shouldn't other companies. Or is that because Apple is the one being affected, no company who deals with them is allowed to exploit their technology but Apple on the other hand is allowed to exploit theirs!!

Apple do not like it that a company is doing to them what Apple have done to others. For decades Apple have gone to courts around the world fighting claims of other companies stealing their IP, stealing their ideas and stealing their technology. Along comes Qualcomm who have a superior product to anyone else and say's 'we have the best available, but it's gonna cost you' and Apple have turned round and said 'not fair, you cannot do this'.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

Qualcomm is a joke. The sooner the CDMA tech isn’t used in the US, the better.

Apple is a joke.....they think they are the only company that can milk their customers?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago
Apple claimed financial damages for Samsung "stealing" their rounded corners on phones but somehow Apple can't see how Qualcomm might sustain financial damages if Apple shared Qualcomm's proprietary software with a competitor?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

CDMA is dying tech. This reminds me of all the efforts to salvage Apple ][ tech that Apple struggled through, even fighting Apple ][ clones at one point. Qualcomm's efforts seem like a desperate effort to survive with antiquated proprietary tech until they have newer tech making any money.

It's not about CDMA. Intel modems already support CDMA, yet Apple still wanted Qualcomm modems for 2018 iPhones.

Qualcomm simply has a lead in LTE technologies and 5G.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 months ago

Everything Qualcomm does relating to cellular chips covered in depth by industry standardisation documents and patents.

They don’t have any trade secrets to protect.

You couldn't be more wrong.
Qualcomm's diagnostic software for tuning modems and antennas is proprietary.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Sizes Compared with iPhone SE, 7, 8, SE 2, X, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max [Update]

Tuesday July 7, 2020 6:49 pm PDT by
Apple is planning on launching the iPhone 12 this fall which is rumored to be coming in 3 different sizes: 5.4", 6.1" and 6.7". The middle size (6.1") matches up with the currently shipping iPhone 11, but the other two sizes will be entirely new. Over the weekend, there was some excitement about how well the new 5.4" iPhone 12 compares to the original iPhone SE. Those who have been hoping...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 2: New Calendar Icon, Files Widget and More

Tuesday July 7, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
Apple today released the second beta of iOS 14 to developers for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features that are coming in the update. Below, we've rounded up all of the changes that we found in the second beta. - Calendar icon - There's a new Calendar app icon in iOS 14 beta 2, with the day of the week abbreviated rather than spelled out. - Clock icon - The clock...

Hands On With iPhone 12 Models Showing New Sizes and Design

Monday July 6, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by
Ahead of the launch of new iPhones we often see dummy models created based on leaked schematics and specifications, with those models designed to let case makers create cases for the new devices ahead of their release. We got our hands on a set of dummy models that represent the iPhone 12 lineup, giving us our first close look at the iPhone 4-style design and the different size options. Subscri ...

Developer's Visual Comparison of macOS Catalina and Big Sur Offers Closer Look at Apple's UI Redesign for Macs

Tuesday July 7, 2020 4:00 am PDT by
macOS 11 Big Sur is the next major release of Apple's operating system for Mac, and following its preview at WWDC, one of the biggest discussions has revolved around the all-new user interface redesign. Developers are still learning what the impact the new UI will have on their apps, and with that in mind, app designer Andrew Denty has compiled an extensive visual comparison of the user...

Analyst Believes iPhone 12 Pricing Will Start $50 Higher Even Without EarPods or Charger in Box

Wednesday July 8, 2020 9:35 am PDT by
Despite multiple reports indicating that Apple will not include EarPods or a wall charger with iPhone 12 models this year, one analyst believes that pricing will still increase slightly compared to the iPhone 11 lineup. In a research note provided to MacRumors, analyst Jeff Pu forecasted that iPhone 12 pricing will start at $749 for a new 5.4-inch model, an increase of $50 over the base...

14-Inch MacBook Pro With Mini-LED Display Expected to Enter Production in 2021

Wednesday July 8, 2020 7:51 am PDT by
Apple suppliers will begin competing to win manufacturing orders for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED displays in the first quarter of 2021, according to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce. Rumors of a 14-inch MacBook Pro have surfaced since Apple replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a new 16-inch model last year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said that...

Apple Seeds First Betas of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 to Public Beta Testers

Thursday July 9, 2020 10:14 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group, two weeks after first providing the updates to developers after the WWDC keynote and a day after seeding the second developer betas. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS/‌iPadOS‌ 14 updates over the air after installing ...

Apple's Arm-Based Macs With Apple Silicon Chips Will Support Thunderbolt

Wednesday July 8, 2020 3:14 pm PDT by
Apple is working on Macs that use its custom Apple-designed Apple Silicon chips instead of Intel chips, but Apple has committed to continuing to support Thunderbolt, reports The Verge. In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that Apple's upcoming machines will offer support for Intel's Thunderbolt USB-C standard. "Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop...

Apple Cuts iPhone Trade-In Values as iPhone 12 Launch Nears

Tuesday July 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
With just two months to go until the usual timeframe for Apple's iPhone launch events, Apple is cutting back on maximum trade-in values of previous-generation iPhones for those looking to upgrade to a new model. Maximum values on more recent models have dropped by $30–$50, while older models have generally dropped by $5–$20 with a few models seeing no change in value.iPhone XS Max: $500 to...

Some iPhone Users Report Significant Battery Drain Due to Music App Background Activity in iOS 13.5.1

Wednesday July 8, 2020 1:49 am PDT by
A significant minority of iPhone users have taken to Apple's Support Communities and Reddit to report battery drain issues largely related to the Music app and high levels of background activity. Hundreds of users, many running iOS 13.5.1 on devices both new and old, are experiencing rapid battery drain when the Music app is not in use. In some cases, the background activity occurs over...