Apple's Acquisition of Intel's Smartphone Modem Business Completed, Intel Admits 'Multi-Billion Dollar Loss'

Intel today announced it has completed the sale of the majority of its smartphone modem business to Apple for $1 billion following regulatory approval. The transaction was first announced in July and includes intellectual property, equipment, and approximately 2,200 Intel employees joining Apple.

Intel 5G Modem
The deal sees Apple acquire a large portfolio of wireless patents from Intel. Apple now holds over 17,000 wireless technology patents, ranging from protocols for cellular standards to modem architecture and modem operation.

Intel will retain the ability to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, such as PCs, internet-of-things devices, and autonomous vehicles.

Last week, Intel admitted that it sold its smartphone modem business to Apple at "a multi-billion dollar loss," according to court documents unearthed by Reuters. Intel added that rival chipmaker Qualcomm's patent licensing practices "strangled competition" and effectively forced it to exit the market.

Apple is expected to use Qualcomm modems for its first 5G-enabled iPhones next year, as part of a six-year licensing agreement between the companies. Farther down the road, multiple reports have claimed that Apple plans to develop its own modems for iPhones by 2022-23, and this Intel deal would certainly help those efforts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
8 months ago


On the other hand, building a cutting edge modem requires making calculated calls on where the industry will move and having deep knowledge of the relevant standards, and any non-standard enhancements, that would allow interoperability with carrier equipment. Since Apple doesn't build carrier equipment, they will likely always be trailing the competition.

The wireless standards track is well-known by all the players, and there aren't really that many choices you have to make. And Apple has some experience being on the cutting edge of wireless: they were the first vendor to ship 802.11. And in any case the standards are, well, standards. No equipment vendor in their right mind wouldn't allow Apple into their interoperability labs.

The real question, though, is if it's really worth it for Apple to be in the modem business at all. That business relies on economies of scale and a lot of engineering and wireless expertise.

I'd guess the goal is to do what it did with Bluetooth and the W1, making the modem low-power. Radios are a big power draw, and I doubt Qualcomm or Intel were willing to make a power/performance tradeoff. At some point that could become yet another competitive advantage for Apple.

I mean, they could probably save a bunch of power just by optimizing the modem's software stack. Most of those modems are driven using the Hayes AT command set, which means you need some kind of serial emulator. Apple could rip out that interface layer and go direct to the modem, which would make it more efficient, which should lead to better power/performance.

If they did it for BT/WiFi they should be able to do it for LTE/5G/6G and beyond.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
I'm curious to see what kind of performance an Apple-made modem would have, assuming Apple makes one.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago


I'm curious to see what kind of performance an Apple-made modem would have, assuming Apple makes one.

Hopefully it's as good as their A-series chips. Can't be any worse than Intel's offerings.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
No surprises there.
I also think Apple designed modems will be several years out
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago
So now, starting with 2021 probably we will have macs with 5G built in
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
8 months ago


Still want Qualcomm chips though.

Would you rather have the A13 or the Snapdragon 855?
Score: 4 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...

Apple Warns Against Closing MacBooks With a Cover Over the Camera

Friday July 10, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
Apple this month published a support document that warns customers against closing their Mac notebooks with a cover over the camera as it can lead to display damage. Image via Reddit Apple says that the clearance between the display and the keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances, which can be problematic. Covering the camera can also cause issues with automatic brightness and True Tone....

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...

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 ...

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...

Leaker: 'iPhone 12 Pro' to Come With 6GB of RAM

Friday July 10, 2020 1:59 am PDT by
Later this year, Apple is expected to release four OLED iPhones in three display sizes, including 5.4, 6.7, and two 6.1-inch models. Rumors suggest the 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model will be higher-end devices, and now leaker @L0vetodream has corroborated previous rumors about the internal specs of Apple's upcoming lineup. Rumors suggest Apple will use 5-nanometer A14 chips in its...

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...

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...

Kuo: Apple Silicon Macs to Include 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air This Year, 14.1-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro Models Next Year

Friday July 10, 2020 2:58 am PDT by
At last month's WWDC, Apple officially announced that its Mac computers will be transitioned from Intel x86 to homegrown Apple Silicon chips. Apple said it plans to deliver the first Apple Silicon Mac by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with a form factor similar to the current 13.3-inch...