Tensions between Apple and Qualcomm have been on the rise, which has in part caused Apple to look elsewhere for the iPhone's upcoming 5G modem. Apple is aiming to include 5G in the iPhone by 2019-2020, which means they are getting close to choosing a manufacturer.
Per a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple is designing its future iPhones and iPads in order to end reliance on Qualcomm components.
Qualcomm and Apple are currently embroiled in a legal spat involving excessive royalties, casting serious doubt on the possibility of a Qualcomm-made LTE modem in a future iPhone. Today, Qualcomm teased a brand new Snapdragon X20 LTE chip, its second-gen Gigabit LTE modem.
It's capable of fiber-like LTE Category 18 downloads of up to 1.2 gigabits per second, or one-fifth faster than the previous X16 chip. Upload speeds go up to a theoretical maximum of 150 megabits per second. It's expected to ship in the first half of 2018.
Only time will tell if Apple plans on dual-sourcing cellular modems from both Qualcomm and Intel, in which case 2018 iPhones could theoretically support faster-than-Gigabit-LTE downlink speeds of up to 150 megabytes per second.
Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Qualcomm with monopolizing baseband modems used in smartphones, basically saying the company bribed Apple into not making a WiMAX iPhone in exchange for better royalties. The chip maker in a subsequent press release denied any wrongdoing, saying the FTC doesn't really understand how the mobile industry works.
Now we know why Apple has made the controversial decision to dual-source baseband modem chips for iPhone 7 from both Intel and Qualcomm. Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Qualcomm with monopolizing baseband modems used in smartphones, saying the firm's leveraged its position to force Apple to use its baseband chips in exchange for lower patent royalties.
Supply chain whispers recently claimed that a significant portion of LTE cellular modems for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus would be built by Intel instead of Qualcomm and now Bloomberg is reporting that Intel modems will be actually reserved for AT&T iPhone 7 models.
Qualcomm is expected to remain Apple's modem provider for Verizon and China-bound iPhone 7 handsets. Qualcomm's boss had said he expected a major customer to diversify its supplier base.
Shares of Qualcomm have dropped two percent after CEO Steve Mollenkopf told analysts on an earnings call Wednesday that it may lose some of its “biggest customers” as they are going with a “second source,” Bloomberg reported.
The fabless chip maker's been Apple's exclusive supplier of LTE modems for over three years now.
That's about to change soon: Mollenkopf is now “assuming” that a major customer will give orders to a rival, indicating a potential loss of business for the company. Analysts said they think the customer is Apple and the rival is Intel.