Apple's goal to launch 2022 iPhone with in-house 5G modem might be too aggressive

Apple's goal to launch 2022 iPhone with in-house 5G modem might be too aggressive
Apple has been developing its own 5G modem for several years now. But after purchasing Intel’s smartphone modem business back in July, the Cupertino-based giant reportedly set itself some aggressive internal targets that could make the chip a reality within the next few years.

2023 might be a more realistic goal for Apple's modem


People familiar with Apple’s plans revealed to Fast Company that, internally, the company is aggressively pushing to integrate its custom 5G modem inside the 2022 iPhone series that’ll presumably be marketed as the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro.

This timeline actually coincides more or less perfectly with a report published by Reuters one day after Apple announced its purchase of Intel’s modem business. At the time, the Silicon Valley-based brand was aiming to integrate its first-generation 5G modem inside the 2021 iPad Pro series that’s expected to launch in October of that year. This would be followed by the integration of its second-generation chip around eleven months later in the 2022 iPhone series, as predicted by Fast Company’s sources. However, this group of people believes the current timeline could be a bit too aggressive. 

Although it’s certainly possible to design the chip and start manufacturing within the proposed schedule, the sources familiar with Apple’s plans admitted that a lengthy certification and testing process make 2023 a much more realistic target. That’s because the modem will have to be put through a range of network optimization tests that ensure compatibility with global 5G networks and satisfy the standards required by the likes of the FCC.

Another important factor is Apple’s lack of experience with smartphone modems. Sources within the company believe some of the people involved don’t fully understand the work that’s required, hence the overly aggressive targets. It’s also worth pointing out that Apple has already delayed the chip twice – it was previously targeting 2020 and 2021 launches. 

How did Apple get to its current situation?


The lead up to Apple’s current situation has been pretty messy, to say the least. The iPhone giant used Qualcomm’s chips exclusively for many years but was forced to switch over to Intel’s modems entirely in 2018 following a dispute over royalties with its former supplier.

After a lengthy legal battle, Apple and Qualcomm finally buried the hatchet in April and reached a six-year modem supply agreement that can be extended a further two years until 2027 if Apple wishes to do so. The 2019 iPhone series still uses Intel’s 4G LTE modems but next year’s 2020 series is expected to make the switch back over to Qualcomm’s alternatives, a move that’ll coincide perfectly with the introduction of support for 5G networks. 

Apple’s 2021 lineup is expected to follow suit and time will tell if the 2022 iPhones do too. Either way, if any other bumps are hit down the road, Apple is ultimately covered until 2025 so it’s certainly got no reason to rush.

The in-house 5G modem should eventually benefit customers


The decision to produce an in-house 5G modem is perhaps driving by the fact that it allows Apple to further reduce its dependence on third-party suppliers. However, there’s also one important detail that’ll ultimately benefit consumers.

When Apple first started working with Intel, Fast Company says it hoped to build up a close relationship that’d eventually allow it to integrate the company’s modems into an updated system-on-chip design that’d include everything from the CPU and GPU to NPU and modem.

This ultimately never happened but is inevitable considering Apple’s controlling modem development. The aggressive internal goals mean that it may not happen with the first or second-generation modems – Apple may choose to separate the modem from the SoC – but it should eventually become a reality. In turn, the development will improve efficiency and improve modem speeds, two factors that’ll benefit the end-user.

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13 Comments

1. gadgetpower

Posts: 283; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

Looking forward to another custom 5G chip which will give another in house advantage to apple’s product performance just like the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone A13 Bionic.

2. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

And I'm looking forward to all the excuses and iRationalizing when it loses to other phones in real world speed testing, just like the A13 bionic.

3. Alcyone

Posts: 489; Member since: May 10, 2018

Wow. You drank the koolaid. Never drink the koolaid.

4. Alcyone

Posts: 489; Member since: May 10, 2018

I'd like to see a reception/transmission comparison between Intel and Qualcomm modems. Last I checked, intel was behind. Almost, feel bad for the iPhone 11 buyers.

6. Vancetastic

Posts: 1614; Member since: May 17, 2017

I had an iPhone X with a Qualcomm modem. My wife has an XR with the Intel. The Intel one ain't great....she drops calls in places where mine had decent service.

5. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

I see teddy and alcyone are still bitter about voting for the iPhone camera over the Note 10+. Too bad Apple doesn’t have to pay for all the space they occupy in your minds, otherwise you’d both earn a fortune in rent. #justindenisonheadphonejack

7. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I didn't vote for any cameras. I rarely even look at the comparison pictures as I've felt (and stated in many articles here) that phone cameras are all plenty good enough for several years now. You, on the other hand, are still bitter about Android phones being named the best phone each year the past five plus years, which is one of many reasons you feel compelled to rush to Apple's rescue any time a slight of the company appears.

8. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

LOL teddy and his obsession with Apple. Oh and teddy, what did you think about the link I posted, the one where Samsung admitted to copying the iPhone design? I also included a link to the patent. You got awfully bashful on that article when I posted the links.

9. TBomb

Posts: 1579; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Just let ape-rulz won so the rest of the comments section can move on with their lives. Apple-rulz is clearly biased (see the name) to some degree. Every one is. Don't engage. Let them can you out. Let them say whatever. They're in it for likes and trying to feel better about themselves. Let them have it. ^^ that good for all the smartphone warriors. Calling apple-rulz out because he is the first comment of the chain who started the name dropping.

10. Vancetastic

Posts: 1614; Member since: May 17, 2017

His habit of making every comment personal kind of says it all to me. I figure these guys have trouble making friends in real life.

14. darkkjedii

Posts: 31331; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I’ve wondered the same thing about some of these members. Are they like real life loners, did they get bullied...gotta wonder.

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31331; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Ted, what phone are you using these days?

11. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Blah blah blah. Whatever. I’m still waiting for teddy to reply, you others seeking my attention can go elsewhere.

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