Apple's Rumored 5G Modem for iPhones Has Suppliers Competing for Orders

Apple's rumored 5G modem project has multiple suppliers interested in assisting with final assembly of the chip, according to a new report.

Apple Wi Fi Chip Feature Navy
While the custom-designed modem will likely be manufactured by Apple's chipmaking partner TSMC, the final packaging stage may be handled by other suppliers. Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes today reported that ASE Technology and Amkor Technology are "competing" to package the modem chips. The two companies already have experience packaging Qualcomm's modem chips, the report states.

Qualcomm is currently the exclusive supplier of 5G modems for Apple devices, including the entire iPhone 14 lineup, but Apple has long been rumored to be designing its own 5G chip as an in-house replacement. Last month, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said he expected Apple's 5G modem to be ready in 2024, but Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that it could take up to three years for Apple to fully transition away from Qualcomm.

The first device expected to be equipped with Apple's custom 5G modem is the fourth-generation iPhone SE, which will likely be released around March 2024. It's unclear how Apple's chip would perform compared to Qualcomm's modems, but the switch to an in-house design would likely reduce Apple's production costs over time.

In the meantime, all iPhone 15 models are expected to be equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X70 modem, which has further cellular speed and power efficiency improvements compared to the Snapdragon X65 in all iPhone 14 models.

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Top Rated Comments

FloridaScrubJay Avatar
16 months ago
I will pause my purchase on the first generation Apple modem iPhones until they are proven to be as good or better than Qualcomm’s current modems.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
name99 Avatar
16 months ago
Gee I'm old enough to remember as long back as two months ago when the conventional wisdom on this forum was that the Apple modem was doomed, Doomed, DOOMED, and that no-one anywhere ever could possibly compete with QC...
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haunebu Avatar
16 months ago

It's unclear how Apple's chip would perform compared to Qualcomm's modems, but the switch to an in-house design would likely reduce Apple's production costs over time.
We already know the answer to this question: It'll perform worse. Apple is developing their own connectivity solution purely to cut costs, not to increase performance. That's why they plan on introducing it in the low-end iPhone, too.

The old Intel modem team, which Apple acquired, never even shipped a working 5G modem. Qualcomm had three generations of product in market by that point. We know how this is going to end... same way it did on the iPhone X, which sourced Qualcomm modems for the Verizon / Sprint iPhone SKUs, and Intel modems for the AT&T / T-Mobile SKUs. The Intel modems performed worse, and Apple artificially limited performance of the Qualcomm modem in order to achieve parity.

This is Tim Cook's Apple. Squeezing the supply chain to wring the most profit out of existing product lines. Very little real product innovation... just iterative designs and reducing costs, wherever possible.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
citysnaps Avatar
16 months ago

I don't understand your comment at all. I'm an engineer and am curious about the technical explanation. Are you in the field? Is it something to do with antennas?
Modern digital communications (including error correction and other sub-topics that make up the field), where fractions of a dB in performance count in the market, is kind of off the beaten path with respect to most kinds of electrical engineering. That's been Qualcomm's bread and butter going back to when the company was founded by Andrew Viterbi and Irwin Jacobs back in the mid '80s. They've pretty much written the book on the subject and have 100,000+ granted patents to protect their research and resulting IP. Thus, it's far from a slam dunk that any company would be able to come in and compete. I was pretty skeptical if Apple could pull that off (should the IP not be licensable). We'll see. If Apple does it will be quite a feat.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DelayedGratificationGene Avatar
16 months ago
Apple won’t release any component that is not superior to what’s available. It’s the Apple Way.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
name99 Avatar
16 months ago

I'm still waiting for an explanation of why making a cellular modem is so freaking difficult. I thought they'd have their own modem back when the A6 was a thing…
It's difficult in the sense that doing ANYTHING at world class level is difficult (by definition, otherwise it wouldn't be world-class level!)
The problem with the internet is that people have no sense of perspective, alternating between assuming difficult things can be done in three days and assuming that difficult things are impossible.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)