Apple working on its own iPhone modems to challenge Qualcomm

iPhone X Stranger Things
Photo by Melvin Thambi on Unsplash

Tensions between Apple and Qualcomm are higher than they’ve ever been before, what with the latter successfully banning a number of iPhones in China. Apple has already banished Qualcomm from its handsets completely, turning to Intel to handle its modem orders. Now it looks like the company wants to be completely self-reliant and make its own modems.

The Information has caught sight of a new job posting for a “Cellular Modem Systems Architect – Platform Architecture” on Apple’s website. It was posted on December 6 and recruiting is still in progress. The company is on the lookout for someone interested in joining its San Diego office.

Apple Hits Qualcomm’s Backyard

San Diego is Qualcomm’s home base and a hotbed of chip design. Bloomberg actually noticed 10 job listings for chip engineers in the city last month, so Apple is clearly serious about making its own wireless chip for the iPhone. It already makes processors, GPUs, Wi-Fi chips, and Bluetooth chips for the iPhone, AirPod, and Apple Watch.

A person briefed on Apple’s plans claims the firm does actually have an active project to make its own cellular modem chip. However, analysts believe it could take as long as 3 years for them to be ready. This actually makes sense since the company still seems to be in the recruiting phase of things and modems are notoriously complicated.

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Apple will likely stick to Intel in the meanwhile, including for its 2020 5G iPhone. The key issue with Intel is quality. Most people agree Qualcomm’s chipsets are superior to Intel’s. Many have noticed a drop in cellular reception and speed with the Intel-powered iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

An Apple-made modem would thus resolve this problem, especially if it’s as high in quality as its A-series SoCs. Too bad we’ll have to wait a while to check it out in an iPhone.