Over the summer, Apple announced plans to buy up Intel’s modem business. It was no secret that Intel was working on a 5G modem when it sold off this arm of its company, just like it was no secret why Apple was the one to purchase it. Immediately, it was clear that Apple wanted to make its own 5G modem for its mobile devices, and today we’re hearing that those in-house modems might start appearing in iPhones as soon as 2022.
So says Fast Company, which spoke to anonymous sources familiar with Apple’s plans. Those sources point out that Apple has a lot of work ahead of it if it wants to have a 5G modem ready to go in just a few years time, and seem to express uncertainty as to whether or not Apple can even meet that goal. One source reportedly told Fast Company that they think 2023 is a more realistic timeline for Apple-branded 5G modems.
Indeed, Apple does have its work cut out for it when it comes to creating a 5G modem. Not only is Apple looking to create an SoC that features integrated 5G, but there’s also necessary network optimization and certification that needs to happen before these 5G modems can be added to Apple’s phones. When you consider that Apple has never created a modem itself before, it becomes even easier to believe that the 2022 goal might be a little bit ambitious.
Regardless of whether these 5G modems are ready to go in 2022 or 2023, Apple will still need to rely on Qualcomm in the interim. Fast Company’s report notes that Qualcomm will be supplying the 5G modems for Apple’s 2020 iPhones, and it sounds like Apple will need to work with Qualcomm again in at least 2021.
There’s also the possibility that Apple finishes its modem in time for 2022’s iPhones but only has time to implement it as a standalone chip, following up with an integrated modem on its SoC the year after. We’ll see how everything shakes out, but it could only be a few more years before iPhones are sporting Apple-made 5G modems.