Plans for an Apple-built 5G modem are reportedly way behind schedule

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.

According to a new Wall Street Journal article (you’ll have to subscribe to read it), 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.

On September 11, Bloomberg reported that Apple is extending an agreement to get modem semiconductors from Qualcomm for three more years. 

The article says this is “a sign that its ambitious effort to design the chips in-house is taking longer than expected.” The new pact will cover “smartphone launches in 2024, 2025 and 2026,” Qualcomm said in a statement Monday. The companies’ agreement had been set to end this year, and the latest iPhone — due on Tuesday — was expected to be one of the last to rely on Qualcomm modems.

It was anticipated that Apple would use its own modem chip in iPhones starting in 2025. In March DigiTimes Asia reported that companies such as ASE Technology Holding (ASEH) and Amkor Technology competing for orders. The two companies have experience packaging Qualcomm’s modem chips, the article adds. 

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.