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Intel reportedly pushing to supply Apple with baseband chips for future iPhones

post #1 of 13
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While Intel Mobile Communications hasn't supplied baseband processors to Apple in years, the chipmaker is said to be looking to get back into the supply chain for future iPhone models in an effort to oust current partner Qualcomm.


iPhone 5s logic board with Qualcomm baseband chipset. | Source: iFixit


Qualcomm currently supplies the wireless LTE chips found in Apple's product lineup, including the flagship iPhone 5s. That partnership is not expected to change with this year's iPhone models, but analyst Timothy Acuri of Cowen and Company has heard that talks are heating up between Intel and Apple for the 2015 iPhone.

In a note to investors on Monday, a copy of which was provided to AppleInsider, Acuri said that Apple has apparently "re-embraced" Intel, and the two parties are having talks about components for next-generation iPhone models.

Acuri believes that Apple's talks may simply be a way for the company to get better prices from current supplier Qualcomm. Though the talks have apparently been ongoing, Acuri believes that Apple is unlikely to ultimately choose Intel, though he said the discussions do add an air of "credibility" to Intel's LTE baseband efforts.

The analyst made no mention of an April rumor out of the Far East that suggested Apple could bring its baseband chip design in-house.

One area where Acuri does believe Apple could make a switch is the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo chip found in the iPhone, which is currently supplied by Broadcom. Acuri said on Monday that he's seen evidence that Qualcomm has made "significant strides in his roadmap," which he believes could put it in a position to displace Broadcom in the next two years.

As for Intel, it purchased Infineon's wireless solutions business for $1.4 billion in 2010, which temporarily made the company a chipmaker for Apple's iPhone. Apple famously builds its own custom ARM-based central processors for the iPhone and iPad, and eschewed Intel in designing the first iPhone.

The last Apple handset to feature an Intel Infineon baseband chip was the GSM iPhone 4, which launched in June of 2010. The CDMA iPhone 4 which debuted in early 2011 used a Qualcomm baseband chip, and Qualcomm completely replaced Intel starting with Apple's iPhone 4S in October of 2011.
post #2 of 13
If Intel will not indemnify Apple from any potential future lawsuit from Samsung, then Apple should not consider switching from any current supplier for baseband.
post #3 of 13
Could this be brought on-board with the A-series package for lower power consumption?

Could Apple leverage this rumoured desire by Intel to get Intel to build Apple's A-series chips?

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post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Could this be brought on-board with the A-series package for lower power consumption?

Could Apple leverage this rumoured desire by Intel to get Intel to build Apple's A-series chips?

I think it all depends on who owns the necessary patents and how much they're going to charge Apple for them. I'm sure Apple owns some wireless patents but not as many as Qualcomm. If Qualcomm would allow Apple to integrate their wireless LTE circuitry into the A-series chip that should be a bonus. It would make the A-chip larger if you assume they'd have to add most of the Qualcomm chips real estate to the A-chip but maybe there is some duplication between the chips. I've always wondered why Apple couldn't just make a single chip that includes everything but that's probably asking for too much integration.

post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

I think it all depends on who owns the necessary patents and how much they're going to charge Apple for them. I'm sure Apple owns some wireless patents but not as many as Qualcomm. If Qualcomm would allow Apple to integrate their wireless LTE circuitry into the A-series chip that should be a bonus. It would make the A-chip larger if you assume they'd have to add most of the Qualcomm chips real estate to the A-chip but maybe there is some duplication between the chips. I've always wondered why Apple couldn't just make a single chip that includes everything but that's probably asking for too much integration.
Sometimes integration is a bad thing as well, the fact of the A chip so compact and other chips compacted into it, heat distribution will be problematic.
post #6 of 13

Totally bad idea, and I have to believe Apple's Engineers are smarter than to listen to Intel if in fact they are vying for this business. Mixed signal processing like that of the Qualcomm chips are a completely different beast then a Digital only process which Intel builds. Intel does not have a good track record with mixed signal and analog and digital stuff in the same package.

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curtis Hannah View Post


Sometimes integration is a bad thing as well, the fact of the A chip so compact and other chips compacted into it, heat distribution will be problematic.

 

Not to mention that in Apple's current product model, several of Apple's products have no need for integrated baseband circuitry, other than BT/WiFi, and even there, I would argue using industry leaders is a lower risk option.  There is very little to be gained other than power management, and even there, the industry seems to be building in low power modes that Apple can dictate some capabilities (nice being the biggest player in the market ("Say, under non-disclosure... we'd like you to consider adding this to your 2016 product roadmap... If you do, we're planning on buying um... on the order of 200Million of them, give or take 10/30%")

 

Now... if Apple was to go into a totally different radio communications technology (say UWB), there may be an argument, but Apple tends to stick to emerging standards, and my guess is they they want the risk of interoperability at the baseband layer to be farmed out to a big player leading the charge. (which I would say Intel isn't, not say, as much as Qualcomm or Broadcom, who live and die by their wireless chip offerings.   Intel, well, they are a follower).

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post
 

I think it all depends on who owns the necessary patents and how much they're going to charge Apple for them. I'm sure Apple owns some wireless patents but not as many as Qualcomm. If Qualcomm would allow Apple to integrate their wireless LTE circuitry into the A-series chip that should be a bonus. It would make the A-chip larger if you assume they'd have to add most of the Qualcomm chips real estate to the A-chip but maybe there is some duplication between the chips. I've always wondered why Apple couldn't just make a single chip that includes everything but that's probably asking for too much integration.

 

The Baseband chip is a separate computer with its own operating system within the iPhone.  It is covered by a whole slew of patents by multiple players.

 

Unless Apple wants to jump in this mess and license everything, I doubt Apple would want to integrate it into the A7 chip.

Apple would also have to purchase a company with the engineers with the experience and talent to do this - such as purchasing Infineon from Intel.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post

If Intel will not indemnify Apple from any potential future lawsuit from Samsung, then Apple should not consider switching from any current supplier for baseband.

 

Intel's own customers are covered by its patents and licenses to the Infineon Baseband chips.

 

The problem for Infineon - which is why Apple switched to Qualcomm - is that the Infineon at the time could not do quad-band chips which cover both Verizon's CDMA and GSM.  

 

If Intel can now do all cellular bands - including China's - then Apple would consider switching to Infineon -  or using Infineon parts to its iPhones for China.

 

If Intel wants Apple's business, they simply have to meet Apple's needs.

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

Unless Apple wants to jump in this mess and license everything, I doubt Apple would want to integrate it into the A7 chip.
Apple would also have to purchase a company with the engineers with the experience and talent to do this - such as purchasing Infineon from Intel.

Didn't the Nortel patent purchase allow Apple to obtain a large number of '4G' patents?

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Could this be brought on-board with the A-series package for lower power consumption?

I can see some problems with crosstalk between the two processes. Some things need some physical distance to keep one from interfering with the other. I'm amazed they don't do so already!
Quote:
Could Apple leverage this rumoured desire by Intel to get Intel to build Apple's A-series chips?

Only if Intel gets it in its head that they can't make the margins on ARM that they make with their own x86 chips. The halcyon days of fat margins are over. When Apple first tried to interest Intel in fabbing ARM chips the PC business hadn't started to shrink and Intel was fat and happy.
"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #12 of 13

It seems like every time Apple does something with Intel it becomes a directive to all of Apple's competitors. UltraPhone: Slightly thinner than an iPhone,slightly lighter than a iPhone, improved touch ID, near zero bevel, you get the idea.

post #13 of 13
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post
Could Apple leverage this rumoured desire by Intel to get Intel to build Apple's A-series chips?

 

I’m of two minds about that.

 

On one hand, anything to kill Samsung. And Intel could probably manage Apple’s requirements.

On the other hand, the last time Intel made something for Apple, they stole it, marketed it as their own, and sold it to Apple’s competitors. See:

 

Originally Posted by Metrix View Post
It seems like every time Apple does something with Intel it becomes a directive to all of Apple's competitors. UltraPhone: Slightly thinner than an iPhone,slightly lighter than a iPhone, improved touch ID, near zero bevel, you get the idea.

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone exists], it doesn’t deserve to.
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Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone exists], it doesn’t deserve to.
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AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPhone › Intel reportedly pushing to supply Apple with baseband chips for future iPhones