Intel is not a name you’d immediately associate with a smartphone. Although the Intel-powered ASUS ZenFone 2 managed to garner a few accolades even in performance, it is still just one in an ocean filled with devices running on the competing ARM CPU architecture. Still trying its luck in that smartphone market, insider sources claim that the chip maker is trying a slightly different strategy. It is said to have allocated 1,000 people into making its high-end LTE modem something that Apple won’t be able to ignore for its 2016 iPhone model.
To be clear, Intel isn’t even dreaming of supplying the CPU for the next iPhone. It probably knows that it’s a lost battle there. Apple designs its own AX system-on-chop or SoC, based on the ARM architecture, of course, and offloads the fabrication to Samsung and TSMC. Instead of trying to butt heads there, Intel will will instead vie for the LTE aspect of Apple’s SoC.
Intel’s 7360 LTE modem won’t be shipping until the end of the year and won’t be appearing in devices until early next year. But while it’s bidding its time, insider sources say that Intel has assigned a small army of its workforce to ensure that the chip will be up to Apple’s notoriously demanding standards. It is also looking to provide the fabrication muscle for Apple’s next SoC, wresting that role away from Samsung and TSMC. And there it might have a compelling advantage. It is capable of using the 14 nm manufacturing process, which Apple’s latest A9 chip uses, al lthroughout. In contrast, Samsung and TSMC still use 20 nm process for the interface of their 14 nmn chips.
If Intel manages to bag Apple as a customer, not only would it push rival Qualcomm out of the scene, it would also be able to make a new marketing thrust on mobile. Having practically lost the market on mobile chips, it could still try to make a killing with LTE chips. After all, if you manage to convince Apple, you’ve pretty much convinced the rest of the market as well.