Apple turns to TSMC for in-house 5G iPhone modem

For years now, we've seen Apple attempt to move away from Qualcomm by producing its own computing components in-house. However, one component that still ties Apple to Qualcomm is a big one in the mobile world: modems. While Apple's iPhones use the company's own System-on-chip (SoC) (or as Apple calls them, "Chips"), Apple is still using Qualcomm-made modems in its phones, but that's something that could change in 2023 thanks to a new team-up with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

Apple looks to TSMC for 5G modems

We've known that Apple is looking to move away from Qualcomm and create modems in-house for months now. We didn't know how Apple plans to produce those modems when it's ready to make the switch. Today, Nikkei Asia reports that Apple has partnered with TSMC to produce these new 5G modems, which could start appearing in iPhones in 2023.

Nikkei Asia learned this information from four unnamed sources with knowledge of Apple's plans, who say that Apple will first start designing the modems using TSMC's 5nm process before moving onto the foundry's 4nm process for mass production. The idea, it seems, is to integrate these 5G modems (which will include radio frequency and millimeter wave modules) with its mobile processors, making for a mobile SoC comprised of in-house components.

Neither Apple nor TSMC have made an on-record public comment on this report, so we'll need to wait for anything more official. Still, if Apple is looking to make in-house 5G modems for its phones, TSMC is a logical choice for a manufacturing partner, considering that it already makes a significant portion of the world's processors each year.

Benefits for Apple and maybe even consumers

For Apple, the benefits of tapping TSMC for in-house modem production are pretty straightforward. First, successfully developing a modem of its own design means it can stop paying Qualcomm fees for the modems it produces. When you sell as many phones as Apple does, those fees can wind up becoming a big pile of money that Apple probably wants to reclaim.

As Nikkei Asia points out in its report today, the second major benefit is that Apple can have better control over hardware integration as it makes more components in-house. This, in turn, means that Apple could increase efficiency without necessarily having to raise prices to achieve that bump.

Increased hardware efficiency can be a good thing for customers, so long as Apple doesn't use that increased efficiency to justify raising prices on its already expensive products. Assuming reports of Apple's team-up with TSMC are accurate, then we should see Apple reveal in-house 5G modems for its 2023 iPhones, so we'll watch for official confirmation until then.