Apple Considered Purchasing Intel's Smartphone Modem Chip Business

Apple had discussions with Intel about potentially acquiring parts of Intel's smartphone modem chip business, reports The Wall Street Journal. Apple was interested in Intel's technology to speed up its own efforts to build modem chips for smartphones.

Intel and Apple entered into discussions last summer and the talks continued for months, but ended right around the time Apple settled its legal dispute and reached a supply agreement with Qualcomm.

Intel 5G Modem
Sources at Intel that spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that Intel is exploring "strategic alternatives" for its smartphone modem chip business, and is still interested in a sale to Apple or another company.

In an interview yesterday, Intel CEO Bob Swan confirmed that Intel is considering alternatives "based on what's best" for Intel's IP and employees.

Selling the modem business would allow Intel to unload a costly operation that was losing about $1 billion annually, according to another person familiar with its performance. Any sale would likely include staff, a portfolio of patents and modem designs related to multiple generations of wireless technology, said Patrick Moorhead, principal at Moor Insights & Strategy, a technology firm.

Intel announced earlier this month that it was exiting the 5G smartphone business, just hours after Apple and Qualcomm announced a resolution to their legal troubles and a new supply deal.

Apple had been planning to use Intel's 5G chips in its 2020 iPhones, but rumors suggested Intel was having trouble meeting design deadlines and that the relationship between Apple and Intel was souring. Just yesterday, Swan also confirmed that Apple's deal with Qualcomm was the reason why Intel decided to stop making 5G chips.

Apple is now planning to use Qualcomm's 5G modem chips in its 2020 5G iPhones. Intel has said that it is going to continue to supply 4G LTE chips to meet already established orders, which means that Apple's 2019 iPhone lineup will likely continue to use Intel chips rather than Qualcomm chips. It is too late in the design cycle for Apple to swap chips for this year's upcoming devices.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
14 months ago

Selling the modem business would allow Intel to unload a costly operation that was losing about $1 billion annually, according to another person familiar with its performance. Any sale would likely include staff, a portfolio of patents and modem designs related to multiple generations of wireless technology, said Patrick Moorhead, principal at Moor Insights & Strategy, a technology firm.

Selling the modem business would also prevent one other thing from ever happening:

Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago
What is so special about 5G? Sure its faster but LTE is already fast so why is everyone obsessed about 5G? Also, it will take years before the coverage is present so surely there is no rush :)
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago

I’m seeing a 26ms ping on my LTE on my 2017 iPhone X. I just ran Speedtest from inside the office building I work in.

Seems fine, pretty darn low latency really.

Just tested my XS Max (inside our large steel framed warehouse) and got 22ms ping, 45Mbps download and 26 Mbps upload.

I also looked at my history over the years (nice that the Speedtest App keeps a record of all your tests).

On 3G iPhones I had results from 1.5-4.5Mbps.
On 4G iPhones I had results from 5-20Mbps for my earlier devices (5S and 6).
On my XS Max I get between 40-80Mbps consistently.

The difference from 3G to 4G was significant. The difference from 4G to 5G might look good on paper, but will have practically no impact whatsoever on people using their devices. Getting over 40Mbps is plenty fast for any tasks I could reasonably do on a mobile device. It's also plenty fast enough to use as a mobile hotspot for my MBP - I never see slow downs or delays while browsing the Internet or editing documents stored online. It's not like I'll ever need to download multi-GB files when I'm mobile.

5G is just a check mark on a feature list that companies will try to make seem far more important than it really is so they have an excuse to sell people shiny new devices.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago

What is so special about 5G? Sure its faster but LTE is already fast so why is everyone obsessed about 5G? Also, it will take years before the coverage is present so surely there is no rush :)

What answer do you want? QC's answer is that it is the second coming of christ, the greatest tech advance in human history --- and it can all be yours right now as long as you give them lots of your money.

How about more rational analysis?
- for "normal" phone usage, 5G gives more AGGREGATE bandwidth/tower. This is not important insofar as your indivdiual phone goes faster. What it means is that even as your phone uses more data year after year, and more phones join the system year after year, things don't get slower. No-one (with a brain, so, yes, this excluded 90% of the internet) cares that a SINGLE phone can run at a kabillion bits/sec; what matters is that the cell tower can put a kabillion bits/sec to service all those phones simultaneously connected to it.

- for IoT usage, 5G introduces a new set of much more efficient protocols that allow all sorts of things (security equipment, metering equipment, weather equipment, health equipment, ...) to communicate with the cellular network more efficiently. This is important, useful, and will be of widespread general benefit. But it's also only relevant to the IoT makers and the telcos, it doesn't affect your phone.

- for dense populations (like stadia, conventions, airports, ...) 5GNR (aka mmWave) allows for much higher bandwidth in these localized areas. This is useful if you've ever been upset at how slow your phone is in such environments.
Note, however, that WiFi has its own plan to achieve the same sort of performance boosts in these environments...
So, yes, we understand why QC and VZW want you to believe that 5GNR is ESSENTIAL to your connected future, but it's far from clear that this is actually true; it's possible that WiFi's stake in this area (called WiGig/802.11ad) will get there first and provide a better solution to this particular problem; I've not seen a good analysis either way.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago
It’s bad for the industry if there is only one supplier.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
14 months ago

What is so special about 5G? Sure its faster but LTE is already fast so why is everyone obsessed about 5G? Also, it will take years before the coverage is present so surely there is no rush :)

Exactly! Don’t know about you,but i am sick of all the tech sites keep banging on about it.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Leaker Shares Details on 'iPhone 13' Camera

Wednesday May 27, 2020 4:27 pm PDT by
The next-generation iPhone 12 lineup coming in fall 2020 isn't out yet, but Fudge (@choco_bit), a leaker who sometimes shares information on upcoming Apple devices, today offered up details on what Apple has in store for the 2021 iPhone 13's camera setup. A simple design drawing depicts a device with a four camera array, which Fudge claims will have the following features: 64-megapixel...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Apple Making It Harder to Avoid Nagging macOS Update Notifications

Thursday May 28, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
With the release of macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and related security updates for macOS Mojave and High Sierra earlier this week, Apple is making it more difficult for users to ignore available software updates and remain on their current operating system versions. Included in the release notes for macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is the following:- Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when...

HBO Max Now Available on Apple TV and iOS Devices

Wednesday May 27, 2020 2:42 am PDT by
HBO Max launched today, and is now available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, which replaces HBO Now, combines HBO content with shows and films from Warner Bros and Turner TV. The service is available as a native app on the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, but second and third-generation ‌Apple TV‌ owners will need to AirPlay HBO Max content...

First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

Tuesday May 26, 2020 3:02 pm PDT by
The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC. A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs,...

Anker Launches $100 24K Gold-Plated USB-C to Lightning Cable

Wednesday May 27, 2020 12:47 pm PDT by
Anker, a brand normally known for its well-made, affordable accessories for Apple devices, has debuted a new $100 24K gold-plated USB-C to Lightning cable. According to Anker, the cable, which is in the PowerLine+ III family, features a "Special Edition Gold Design" that's "bold yet elegant" with the aforementioned gold-plated cable heads and matching braided gold and black cable. The...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...