Apple designed 5G modem could power 2023 iPhone, says Kuo

Apple plans to to use its own modems in future iPhones, as it looks for ways to reduce dependence on other companies. The company currently relies on Qualcomm for modems for its devices. However, the iPhone maker has been involved in licensing disputes with Qualcomm in the past. As a result, it would be very beneficial for Apple to completely distance itself from Qualcomm.

The current flagship iPhones (iPhone 12 series) uses 5G cellular modems supplied by Qualcomm. Apple is expected to continue to use Qualcomm modems at least until 2023, according to the noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities. The upcoming 2022 flagship iPhones will very likely use Qualcomm 5G modems but the 2023 iPhones could use Apple’s own modems. 

Qualcomm will be forced to compete

We predict that the ‌iPhone‌ will adopt Apple’s own design 5G baseband chips in 2023 at the earliest. As Android sales in the high-end 5G phone market are sluggish, Qualcomm will be forced to compete for more orders in the low-end market to compensate for Apple’s order loss. When the supply constraints improve, MediaTek and Qualcomm will have less bargaining power over brands, resulting in significantly higher competitive pressure in the mid-to low- end market.

“This year, we kicked off the development of our first internal cellular modem which will enable another key strategic transition,” he said. “Long-term strategic investments like these are a critical part of enabling our products and making sure we have a rich pipeline of innovative technologies for our future,” said Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies Johny Srouji at a town hall meeting with Apple employees in 2020.

In 2019, Apple purchased the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. As part of the deal, it was reported that around 2,200 Intel employees would join Apple. The iPhone maker also was reported to take over all of Intel’s intellectual property related to modem.

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