Apple Needed a Multi-Year Chip Deal With Qualcomm as Its Own 5G Modem Would Take Years to Make, Claim Experts

Apr 18, 2019
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Apple signed a multi-year chip agreement with Qualcomm after both firms decided to drop all litigation. Had the deal not gone through, Apple would be seeking another supplier, with Huawei being the best possible candidate, or continue development of its in-house modem with more conviction. Unfortunately, incorporating its own solution in future iPhones would take years to materialize, and it might even take longer for the company to develop a 5G modem, according to industry experts. Such experts state that Apple needed the deal with Qualcomm and have highlighted the reasons why.

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According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple will likely start using Qualcomm’s 5G modems in the future, which we think will be the new and improved Snapdragon X55 variant. Even though Apple strives to reduce dependency on its suppliers by working on its own silicon, experts claim that right now, that isn’t the best course of action as developing a modem is one of the most complex tasks in the smartphone industry. The reason is there are a lot of intricacies involved, requiring years and years of knowledge before stepping into this line of work.

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Chip analyst Gus Richard states the following regarding Qualcomm’s stance in the 5G modem industry as well the difficulties of making your own modem.

“Modems are the sport of kings. Qualcomm’s probably the only company on the planet that can get a 5G modem in an Apple phone by next year. Getting modems qualified around the world is extremely difficult. Companies gain a lot of tribal knowledge going through 2G, or 3G, or 4G. You likely will not have the experience needed to succeed without having that history.”

Getting a modem to play well with cellular networks, browse the web, download apps, make phone calls, all the while doing this smoothly around the world is a complex task that requires years and years of industry expertise and knowledge to implement. While Apple was reported to begin in-house work around a year ago, it will take a lot longer before the company has a modicum of success of outfitting its own modem in future iPhones. Matt Ramsay, an analyst at Cowen & Co., believes that Qualcomm will be the sole supplier for Apple for the long run.

“Apple will continue to build its internal expertise as a very long-term potential second vertically integrated source to Qualcomm. But we do believe that Qualcomm’s 5G leadership has resulted in Qualcomm being the sole-source modem supplier for Apple’s 5G lineup over the next 5-plus years.”

Apple might not have given up work on its own modem, but it will be a while before a workable solution is found inside future iPhones and iPads. Industry watchers claim that developing your own modem is more difficult than building an SoC, and looking at the state of affairs right now, we’ll have to agree.

Source: Bloomberg

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