Apple Extends Deal With Qualcomm as Custom 5G Modem Delayed

Apple has extended its agreement to obtain modems from Qualcomm for three more years, in what appears to be a sign that work on the company's own custom 5G modem is taking longer than previously expected, Bloomberg reports.

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Apple is Qualcomm's biggest client, accounting for almost a quarter of the supplier's revenue. In a statement, Qualcomm said that the deal with Apple covers "smartphone launches in 2024, 2025 and 2026." The agreement was originally set to expire this year and the iPhone 15 lineup was once rumored to be the last to rely on Qualcomm modems.

The extension of the deal indicates that Apple's work on its own custom 5G modem is taking considerably longer than expected. Apple has reportedly been working on its own modem since 2018 and it acquired the majority of Intel's smartphone modem business in 2019. The time frame for launching the modem has slipped from 2023 to 2024 or 2025, but Bloomberg now believes it has an even "longer runway" before it will be ready.

While the new agreement extends to 2026, Apple could still begin rolling out its own modem in new devices before then. Earlier this month, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the modem will launch in 2025. Apple's apparent plan to gradually transition to its custom modem technology is indicated by the fact that Qualcomm expects to still have a 20 percent share of iPhone shipments when the 2026 ‌iPhone‌ launches, suggesting that Apple will continue using Qualcomm modems in a minority of iPhones at this time.

Apple purportedly wants its custom 5G modem to mirror its work on Apple silicon, touting considerable battery life and performance benefits. Thus far, the company's work on the component has apparently been mired by battery life issues and bureaucratic challenges, such as certifying the modem with connectivity authorities.

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Top Rated Comments

phill85 Avatar
10 months ago
Thank goodness. I was worried my 16 Pro might have an apple designed modem. Please don’t take me back to the days of the iPhone 11 Pro connectivity… constant dropped calls, shakey reception. I’m a huge apple fan, but they need to stick with qualcomm.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonnysods Avatar
10 months ago
A long dev time is a good thing, glad they are slow to roll this out and not use us for beta testing.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
citysnaps Avatar
10 months ago

I would gave thought a modem design would be an afternoon napkin drawing for the engineers who develop Apple silicon.
That's far from reality.

Qualcomm has a rich history of developing algorithms and communications modem chips starting with two of its founders, Drs. Andrew Vitirbi and Irwin Jacobs. Long ago they pretty much wrote the book with respect to modern digital communications science. Qualcomm as a company has loads of patents protecting their work.

It's so much more than just designing chips.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ItsASpider Avatar
10 months ago

I blame WFH as well. Apple bought the unit in December 2019. Shortly after, everyone started working from home - wasting years of productivity and culture change.
So, you're blaming something of which you have no knowledge and for which you have no reason to put that blame on?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nt5672 Avatar
10 months ago
Imagine that. Intel's old baby evidently has some problems.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fatTribble Avatar
10 months ago
I know nothing about the work involved in creating these complex components so let me express strong opinions ?

I would have thought a modem design would be an afternoon napkin drawing for the engineers who develop Apple silicon.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)