05/11 Update below. This article was originally published on November 3
Hot iPhone 15 upgrades are dropping like flies, and now one of the biggest looks is sure to miss the cut.
Apple’s much-hyped in-house 5G modem will no longer debut with the release of the iPhone 15 line in 2023, and that signals a major setback for Apple’s modem division. The news emerged following comments from Apple modem supplier Qualcomm in its earnings report yesterday.
Picked up by Bloomberg, Qualcomm told investors it would continue to supply the “vast majority” of modem chips for Apple’s iPhone 15 line in 2023. The company said it previously expected to only supply 20% of iPhone 5G modems by then, given Apple’s ambitious roadmap for its own 5G modems.
Update 4/11: I can now confirm Qualcomm’s comments reported by Bloomberg, which in turn confirm that Apple’s modem ambitions are delayed by at least another iPhone generation.
Update 05/11: The same source has now added more details to Qualcomm’s comments, saying the company plans to continue supplying Apple with modems for iPhone models for at least the next three generations.
The source also says that Qualcomm does not expect Apple to replace all Qualcomm modems at once, but rather rolls them out in increasing percentages with each successive iPhone generation. It is perfectly logical. The company also tried this model before.
Apple was already looking to diversify its modem vendors when it started integrating Intel modems into iPhones with the iPhone 11. Performance issues cut the experiment short, but Apple was motivated enough to buy Intel’s smartphone modem division in 2019 to try the chips themselves.
Since then, the absence of a commercial product has shown that competing with Qualcomm is no small task. That said, the potential gain for Apple is twofold. First, it gains more control over its supply chain. Second, it can integrate internal modems earlier in the design process, potentially unlocking increased performance and battery efficiency.
As such, though delayed, I don’t see Apple giving up on its modem ambitions anytime soon.
Although it has been working on the chip since 2020, Bloomberg reveals that Apple suffered significant setbacks, which caused the delay. In July, he reported that the prototypes had “overheated over the past year”.
Respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo went even further, saying the development of the modem “may have failed”, saying that Apple may be forced to rely on Qualcomm in the future. predictable. Last month, Haitong International Securities analyst Jeff Pu agreed, saying Apple’s modem could miss iPhone launches in 2023 and 2024.
But this is the first we’ve heard from an Apple partner, and Qualcomm’s announcement adds considerable weight to those pessimistic projections. Such a delay would have seemed unthinkable when Apple bought Intel’s 5G modem business for $1 billion in 2019. Intel was already shipping smartphone modems and Apple was using them in the iPhone 11 lineup.
As such, it’s hard to understand why the project turned out to be so difficult. Apple is famous for its tight integration of components, so if I had to hazard a guess, that’s where I suspect problems have arisen.
On the other hand, Qualcomm’s next-gen 5G modems are hugely impressive, and early leaks suggest there’s still a lot to like about Apple’s iPhone 15 plans. Including redesigned standard models and an all-new iPhone 15 Ultra with titanium chassis and dual-sided front cameras. USB-C is also highly recommended, but far from certain.
Either way, Apple seems determined to make a splash in 2023 after disappointing iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus sales.