5G iPhone might have Samsung or MediaTek modems, says Apple's Tony Blevins

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 11
Apple has considered the possibility of using modems from Samsung and MediaTek in its future 5G devices, testimony at a US Federal Trade Commission trial with Qualcomm reveals, with an Apple executive confirming there is a possibility of the two companies providing modems for the forthcoming 2019 iPhone refresh.




Advised in antitrust trial testimony on Friday, Apple supply chain executive Tony Blevins confirmed Apple had looked towards other rival modem suppliers as potential sources of modems, Reuters reports. It was not revealed if one or both companies had the prospect of becoming a supplier, nor what proportion of modems they would supply alongside Intel.

The admission suggested Apple is fine with the idea of allowing multiple suppliers to provide modems for iPhones, which would be a return to form for the company. In 2016, Apple moved from Qualcomm as the only supplier to having Intel as a secondary option, but by 2018, Apple had instead moved entirely to Intel, freezing Qualcomm out of the supply chain for that specific component.

Blevins told the court Apple was looking into potentially using MediaTek and Samsung to supply the chips, in order to allow the iPhones to work with 5G cellular networks. The executive did not say if Apple had in fact made a decision on 5G modem suppliers, nor whether it would even release a 5G-capable iPhone at all.

Rumors from November and December suggest it is unlikely for this year, with Apple intending to use 5G-capable modems in iPhones arriving in 2020.

The discussions with Samsung was "not an ideal environment" for Apple, Blevins noted in his testimony. While Samsung is a major competitor against Apple in the smartphone industry, it is also a major supplier to many smartphone vendors, and is the largest component supplier to Apple itself.

As part of the testimony, Blevin confirmed Apple stopped using Intel for modems for the iPad mini 2 in 2013 as it would lose the rebates, calling Intel "economically unattractive" at that point in time. Within a year, following attempts to sufficiently negotiate costs with Qualcomm, Apple launched an attempt to secure a second modem supplier, dubbed "Project Antique."

"The entire concept of Project Antique was to find a second supplier," Blevins told the court. "No offense to [Intel] but we don't want to be single supplier with them. We wanted both Qualcomm and [Intel] in the mix."

While Intel re-entered the modem supply chain in 2016, Qualcomm's lawsuit caused the business relationship with Apple to change "in a very profound and negative manner," prompting a switch to just using Intel chips.

Blevins was giving testimony in court as part of the antitrust trial between Qualcomm and the FTC, which commenced last week. The suit was initiated nearly two years ago, with the FTC accusing Qualcomm of forcing Apple into an exclusive modem deal that ran between 2011 and 2016, in exchange for lower patent royalties.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    Good. I hope Qualcomm suffers. 
    olsAppleExposedjbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Alongside Intel?  Didn't Intel recently reveal they wouldn't have viable 5G modems until 2020?  If that's the case, it would be less alongside and more instead of.
    As for Samsung and MediaTek... Exynos chips have a good rep and we know the 5100 is a thing.  MediaTek's M70 is at least a completed.  The only thing I know of MediaTek is their reputation for the the chip of choice for lower tier devices.  Not sure how I feel about that.  Questionable business practices aside, there's been enough Samsung tech in Apple's devices for me to not worry about the modem quality too much.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 22
    Qualcomm is declining in relevance.  They had the early monopoly in wireless, but the next gen chips will be 5G that fall back to 4G.

    Qualcomm’s monopoly is more 3G and earlier.  Qualcomm might be lightly better in 4G & 5G but there’s no longer the customer lock-in in IP, for a marginal performance boost.

    Goodbye Qualcomm.

    racerhomie3AppleExposedGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 22
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 195unconfirmed, member
    Why not made by Apple?
    caladanian
  • Reply 5 of 22
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,553member
    Qualcomm is declining in relevance.  They had the early monopoly in wireless, but the next gen chips will be 5G that fall back to 4G.

    Qualcomm’s monopoly is more 3G and earlier.  Qualcomm might be lightly better in 4G & 5G but there’s no longer the customer lock-in in IP, for a marginal performance boost.

    Goodbye Qualcomm.

    You do realize that Qualcomm makes more than modem chips, right?
    edited January 11 ksecmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 22
    What about the rumors of Apple making their own modems? Isn't that why they've been making the A series SOC chips? In order to better control quality, performance, battery life, and cost? Just integrate the modem into the SOC, or at least onto the same package. Do some sort of system-in-a-package 
    AppleExposedcaladanian
  • Reply 7 of 22
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,693member
    It seems there will be more than one 5G modem manufacturer. That may include Apple itself. Future of Qualcomm looks bleak.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,060member
    wood1208 said:
    It seems there will be more than one 5G modem manufacturer. That may include Apple itself. Future of Qualcomm looks bleak.
    If Apple decides to make its own modem (patent licencing permitting, I suppose), it will be for phones much further down the line. 

    It clearly had no intention of making its own modem or else it would have had something in the pipe long before now and ready to release in line with Samsung, Qualcomm, Huawei, etc
  • Reply 9 of 22
    avon b7 said:
    wood1208 said:
    It seems there will be more than one 5G modem manufacturer. That may include Apple itself. Future of Qualcomm looks bleak.
    If Apple decides to make its own modem (patent licencing permitting, I suppose), it will be for phones much further down the line. 

    It clearly had no intention of making its own modem or else it would have had something in the pipe long before now and ready to release in line with Samsung, Qualcomm, Huawei, etc
    I suspect Apple is fine having someone else make their wireless chip, but I bet Apple is going to work on acquiring IP either internally or purchased.

    Someday Apple might make a fully integrated chip to save on power, but I don’t think it’s a priority.  The price difference between WiFi and Cellular + WiFi has to be pretty lucrative.  Personally, I’d want to have 5G (etc) in every device but that’s a consumer talking. 
  • Reply 10 of 22
    mazda 3s said:
    Qualcomm is declining in relevance.  They had the early monopoly in wireless, but the next gen chips will be 5G that fall back to 4G.

    Qualcomm’s monopoly is more 3G and earlier.  Qualcomm might be lightly better in 4G & 5G but there’s no longer the customer lock-in in IP, for a marginal performance boost.

    Goodbye Qualcomm.

    You do realize that Qualcomm makes more than modem chips, right?
    Qualcomm is all things wireless.  Their secret sauce is IP which they use to bludgeon both their partners and opponents.

    Qualcomm has 30,000+ employees but they road 3G (and a less extend 4G because it needed backward compatibility) all the way until 2013 at which point the companies growth stalled.

    Qualcomm losing their legal battles is going to be huge.  They’re not going out of business, but they’re in serious trouble.  
  • Reply 11 of 22
    So,  will these new chips make phones bigger\thicker than they already are and what about power drain on battery?
  • Reply 12 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 872member
    M68000 said:
    So,  will these new chips make phones bigger\thicker than they already are and what about power drain on battery?
    I wouldn’t expect size to change much. Battery drain is another question, though. One of the issues when a designing a new modem is power draw and typically that doesn’t get optimized until the 2nd or 3rd generation. This is part of the reason Apple was ‘late’ to the game with other wireless techs and is one of the presumed reasons they’re not racing to have a 5G phone for 2019. 

    I’m fine with that. I’d far rather have good battery life than a modem that might give me increased speeds in a handful of locations.  
    edited January 11 caladanian
  • Reply 13 of 22
    ivanhivanh Posts: 243member
    To make America Great Again, Apple should use USRobotics instead of SamSung.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    ksecksec Posts: 1,527member
    mazda 3s said:
    Qualcomm is declining in relevance.  They had the early monopoly in wireless, but the next gen chips will be 5G that fall back to 4G.

    Qualcomm’s monopoly is more 3G and earlier.  Qualcomm might be lightly better in 4G & 5G but there’s no longer the customer lock-in in IP, for a marginal performance boost.

    Goodbye Qualcomm.

    You do realize that Qualcomm makes more than modem chips, right?
    Qualcomm is all things wireless.  Their secret sauce is IP which they use to bludgeon both their partners and opponents.

    Qualcomm has 30,000+ employees but they road 3G (and a less extend 4G because it needed backward compatibility) all the way until 2013 at which point the companies growth stalled.

    Qualcomm losing their legal battles is going to be huge.  They’re not going out of business, but they’re in serious trouble.  
    Um..... No.

    You made it sounds like we need Qualcomm in 4G only because of 3G, ( or more like CDMA ), which is not true. And I am reading you also implies that 5G requires backward compatibility to 4G so there is no need for Qualcomm, which is not true as well.

     
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 22
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,511member
    Good. I hope Qualcomm suffers. 
    Samsung For The Win.   Yes.   Apple once agains need Samsung.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Qualcomm is declining in relevance.  They had the early monopoly in wireless, but the next gen chips will be 5G that fall back to 4G.

    Qualcomm’s monopoly is more 3G and earlier.  Qualcomm might be lightly better in 4G & 5G but there’s no longer the customer lock-in in IP, for a marginal performance boost.

    Goodbye Qualcomm.

    As someone who was purchased new iPhones every year since 2007, I can say without a doubt the QUALCOMM chips  are far superior to those of Intel. It is so obvious every time I use my iPhone s Max. 
  • Reply 17 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,390member
    So, the question on whether Apple will have 5G capable phones by this September rests on whether or not alternative supplies to Qualcomm and Huawei can be found -- rather than some ridiculous strategic decision as so many here on ai have suggested.  (One of the more popular rationalizations were:   "Since 5G won't serve rural areas, we don't need it".  Or, "Since the carriers won't have the network 100% complete, there is no need for Apple to incorporate a 5G modem").  Nonsense.

    I'm betting we will see 5G in an Apple phone this September.  If not, we'll see another disappointing sales year.

    One possible scenario is:   Qualcomm will drop their ridiculous exclusivity requirement and supply Apple with 5G modems for the high end Xs line of phones -- and the lower cost LCD units will continue with LTE modems until Intel and others can get on board.

    But, hopefully, Intel, Samsung and third tier players will be up and running by then.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,338member
    So, the question on whether Apple will have 5G capable phones by this September rests on whether or not alternative supplies to Qualcomm and Huawei can be found -- rather than some ridiculous strategic decision as so many here on ai have suggested.  (One of the more popular rationalizations were:   "Since 5G won't serve rural areas, we don't need it".  Or, "Since the carriers won't have the network 100% complete, there is no need for Apple to incorporate a 5G modem").  Nonsense.

    I'm betting we will see 5G in an Apple phone this September.  If not, we'll see another disappointing sales year.

    One possible scenario is:   Qualcomm will drop their ridiculous exclusivity requirement and supply Apple with 5G modems for the high end Xs line of phones -- and the lower cost LCD units will continue with LTE modems until Intel and others can get on board.

    But, hopefully, Intel, Samsung and third tier players will be up and running by then.
    Very likely that Apple has already frozen the designs for 2019, so I don't expect to see 5G this year. Any iOS users today that find that 5G is a requirement, will wait for the 2020 models, though that would be a small number relative to the user base.
    edited January 12
  • Reply 19 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,390member
    tmay said:
    So, the question on whether Apple will have 5G capable phones by this September rests on whether or not alternative supplies to Qualcomm and Huawei can be found -- rather than some ridiculous strategic decision as so many here on ai have suggested.  (One of the more popular rationalizations were:   "Since 5G won't serve rural areas, we don't need it".  Or, "Since the carriers won't have the network 100% complete, there is no need for Apple to incorporate a 5G modem").  Nonsense.

    I'm betting we will see 5G in an Apple phone this September.  If not, we'll see another disappointing sales year.

    One possible scenario is:   Qualcomm will drop their ridiculous exclusivity requirement and supply Apple with 5G modems for the high end Xs line of phones -- and the lower cost LCD units will continue with LTE modems until Intel and others can get on board.

    But, hopefully, Intel, Samsung and third tier players will be up and running by then.
    Very likely that Apple has already frozen the designs for 2019, so I don't expect to see 5G this year. Any iOS users today that find that 5G is a requirement, will wait for the 2020 models, though that would be a small number relative to the user base.
    Marginalization as an argument?
    "It's already frozen 9 months before release"?
    "Not many will care"?
    "The damn users can wait!"

    If any or all of that were actually true it would surely, more than anything else, signal the demise of Apple -- not because Apple didn't have a 5G phone when "everybody" else did, but because it showed an arrogance, indifference and hubris of a lesser company.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 22
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,338member
    tmay said:
    So, the question on whether Apple will have 5G capable phones by this September rests on whether or not alternative supplies to Qualcomm and Huawei can be found -- rather than some ridiculous strategic decision as so many here on ai have suggested.  (One of the more popular rationalizations were:   "Since 5G won't serve rural areas, we don't need it".  Or, "Since the carriers won't have the network 100% complete, there is no need for Apple to incorporate a 5G modem").  Nonsense.

    I'm betting we will see 5G in an Apple phone this September.  If not, we'll see another disappointing sales year.

    One possible scenario is:   Qualcomm will drop their ridiculous exclusivity requirement and supply Apple with 5G modems for the high end Xs line of phones -- and the lower cost LCD units will continue with LTE modems until Intel and others can get on board.

    But, hopefully, Intel, Samsung and third tier players will be up and running by then.
    Very likely that Apple has already frozen the designs for 2019, so I don't expect to see 5G this year. Any iOS users today that find that 5G is a requirement, will wait for the 2020 models, though that would be a small number relative to the user base.
    Marginalization as an argument?
    "It's already frozen 9 months before release"?
    "Not many will care"?
    "The damn users can wait!"

    If any or all of that were actually true it would surely, more than anything else, signal the demise of Apple -- not because Apple didn't have a 5G phone when "everybody" else did, but because it showed an arrogance, indifference and hubris of a lesser company.
    Pure speculation on your part that Apple will have 5G capabilities this fall or that it will be "another disappointing sales year". No different than my speculation, just that it is a given that the 2019 designs are not going to suddenly incorporate 5G at this late date; too much RF testing to meet functional and FCC requirements to wait. On the other hand, if there was an existing deal for production of said modems, then you would likely be correct. I have heard of none.

    Apple has an upgrade program in place for those that are concerned about this years lack of 5G future proofing.

    Myself, I'll be lucky to see 5G buildout in my exurban area in the next 5 years, if history is any example.

    I am interested in the high end iPhone model that will have three rear cameras, replacing my iPhone 7 Plus, so I'll likely get my wish, based on the rumors.

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