Apple has long dreamed of abandoning the use of Qualcomm modem solutions in the iPhone and other devices in favor of its own devices. So far, the companies have signed a contract to supply modems until 2026. The company planned to develop its own modem by spring 2025, but as mentioned, it probably won’t be ready by then Bloomberg with reference to their informed sources.
The previous schedule assumed that Apple would have its own modern modem for the iPhone by spring 2025 and then cooperation with Qualcomm in this area could be limited. Apple has been working on this project since 2018, investing significant resources and the efforts of thousands of its engineers in this direction, but it has still not been possible to complete the project. When developing its own modem, Apple has not yet been able to achieve the required data transfer speeds, as well as power consumption indicators and other characteristics that would go beyond the characteristics of the solutions available on the market.
When announcing the iPhone 15 family in September, Qualcomm representatives made it clear that they expected to work with Apple for several more years. It was originally expected that cooperation between the companies in this area would end in 2024, but the contract was extended until 2026 inclusive. The agreement was concluded back in 2019 after resolving legal contradictions between the companies, and in 2018 Apple was noticed in attempts to attract Qualcomm specialists to its staff. A few months later, Apple spent $ 1 billion to buy Intel’s modem development business, thereby proving its focus on developing its own components of this type. In parallel, specialists in wireless information transmission technologies with experience were hired at MediaTek.
As expected, the first Apple device with its own modem will be the next version of the iPhone SE, since its buyers do not have such high demands on the speed of information transfer, and this choice gives the company the opportunity to experiment and eliminate errors along the way. Apple now expects to bring such an iPhone SE with a self-developed modem onto the market in 2025 at the earliest, and in the worst case not until 2026. Qualcomm already expects to supply Apple with modems in 2026, at least to cover part of the total needs of the latter company. Qualcomm plans to supply at least 20% of Apple’s modem needs itself.
Over time, Apple expects to introduce modems of its own design not only in the iPhone, but also in iPad tablets and Watch smartwatches. The modem for first-generation smartphones will have a discrete layout and be a separate chip on a circuit board, but Apple plans to integrate it with other components in the future. Ideally, the company would like to replace Broadcom’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controllers with its own solutions, but for now that idea isn’t a priority.
Apple is still several years behind its competitors in modem development. For example, it’s not entirely clear whether it will support millimeter-wave 5G networks, which rivals have already deployed. The purchase of Intel’s core business did not particularly help Apple specialists in developing software for their own modem. The main part of the code had to be rewritten. After the first prototypes have been created, the test phase has to cover such different conditions that it takes up a lot of valuable time. Apple also has a lack of qualified developers whose effort is constantly being put into other projects.
If some of the technologies used in the modem of its own development affect Qualcomm’s interests in the field of intellectual property, the latter will continue to receive special royalties from Apple, although the amount will probably be less than the $ 9 for each smartphone partner now receives. The desire to avoid plagiarism also slows down the development of Apple’s own modem.