I don’t believe reports that Apple is discontinuing plans to build its own 5G modem

Apple has extended its modem chip licensing agreement with Qualcomm through March 2027.

Despite rumors that Apple is discontinuing in-house modem development after several unsuccessful attempts to perfect its own custom 5G modem chip, I don’t believe that’s the case.

The project may be facing problems, but I still believe that Apple wants to (paraphrasing the late Steve Jobs) “make the whole widget.”

As noted by MacRumors, according to the operator of news aggregator account “yeux1122” on the Naver blog, supply chain sources related to Apple’s 5G modem departments claim that the company’s attempts to develop its own modem have failed so far, and that the tech giant is in the process of winding down its years-long investment in the project. Separately, the leaker known as @Tech_Reve claims to have heard similar reports from a Japanese supply chain source.

Admittedly, Apple has faced unexpected issues with the project. For example, a November 16 Bloomberg report said the tech giant had fallen further behind in its multibillion-dollar effort to make a modem chip for the iPhone, “stymied by the complexity of replacing an intricate Qualcomm component.”

After already delaying a plan to have an in-house chip ready by next year, Apple is now likely to miss a goal to ship the component by the spring of 2025, the article sid, quoting unnamed “people familiar with the situation.” That would postpone the release until at least the end of 2025 or early 2026 — the final year of Apple’s recently extended contract with Qualcomm.

And a September Wall Street Journal article (you’ll have to subscribe to read it) said that Apple’s work on a 5G modem is “three years behind Qualcomm’s best chip.”

From the article: Apple had planned to have its modem chip ready to use in the new iPhone models. But tests late last year found the chip was too slow and prone to overheating. Its circuit board was so big it would take up half an iPhone, making it unusable.

Teams were siloed in separate groups across the U.S. and abroad without a global leader. Some managers discouraged the airing of bad news about delays or setbacks from engineers, leading to unrealistic goals and blown deadlines.

Apple’s own modem has been rumored for some time. the tech giant acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business in July 2019 and added 2,200 Intel engineers to its chipset operations globally. 

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.