Apple ramps up 5G modem efforts as it 'loses confidence' in Intel

The iPhone XR

The iPhone XR

Apple is now involved in an unresolved legal dispute with the mobile industry's main modem manufacturer, Qualcomm.

So says Fast Company, which has heard from a source "with knowledge of the situation" that Intel has been missing deadlines for the development of its XMM 8160 5G modem, despite a year ago bringing forward the launch of the chip by six months. This shadowy figure told Fast Company Intel has been missing incremental deadlines for the development of this critical component, which has led to understandable consternation on the part of Apple. This would put Apple at a huge disadvantage in the smartphone wars.

Apple already makes its own mobile processors for the iPhone, but up until the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, it relied mostly on Qualcomm for cellular modems.

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This concern has been backed up by UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri, who said in a research note on Wednesday: "We do not believe [Intel] will be ready with a single chip backward compatible 5G modem". It has reportedly hired up to 2000 engineers, including engineers from both Intel and Qualcomm, to work on its own modems. First, MediaTek isn't considered a company that can't reach iPhone requirements, and second, Apple is already trying to reduce reliance on Samsung and such an approach wouldn't align with its long-term vision. This development effort has strained the relationship between Apple and Intel, with Intel's CEO allegedly wondering why his company should be working with Apple at all.

However, Apple clearly does not share Intel's optimism. It means that as rival Android phones arrive with 5G modems, such as Qualcomm's X50, Apple will be waiting for Intel to catch up.

Looking at the 5G push from this perspective makes it obvious that Apple not only that lacks the hardware to make a 5G iPhone happen, but it also doesn't have any partner that can help it build one.

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