Apple chip engineering team shift suggests strong 5G modem push

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 7
Apple is restructuring some of its internal hardware teams, with the move to directly under the head of hardware suggesting a strong 5G modem push.

Intel's modem currently used by Apple in iPhone production, with a penny for scale
Intel's modem, with a penny for scale


Apple has been exploring the possibility of creating its own modems for some time, but until now it has relied on third-party suppliers such as Qualcomm and Intel to provide the modems used in the iPhone, iPad, and other devices. The relocation of the modem group strongly suggests the move to modems of its own design may happen soon.

According to two sources of Reuters familiar with the move, Apple has tasked senior vice president of hardware technologies Johny Srouji with overseeing the modem design since January.

Srouji has previously worked on a number of major projects for Apple, including the design of the custom A-series chips used by Apple in the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Apple TV, and in the development of the W-series Bluetooth chips used in the AirPods and other accessories.

Modem development is said to have previously been led by Ruben Caballero under iPhone, iPad, and Mac engineering lead Dan Ricco.

Apple has seemingly been gearing up to create its own cellular modem for some time, with job listings in November and December looking for engineers for work on wireless chips. Listings included one role seeking a cellular systems architect in San Diego, which is rumored to be where Apple is planning to build its new chip.

November reports pointed to the possibility of Apple using Intel's 5G-capable modem for a 2020 iPhone release, enabling it to work with next-generation cellular networks. Later reports in December echoed similar sentiments regarding 5G, noting that it would be continuing to work with existing 3G and 4G technologies for the moment.

It is plausible that the delay, which could put the iPhone a year behind the rest of the market in adopting 5G, could be caused by the company's desire to create its own modem.

Apple does have numerous incentives to produce its own modems, including avoiding lawsuits similar to its ongoing legal trouble with Qualcomm. Bringing technology design in-house can also help provide benefits in making components specifically for Apple's own requirements instead of using an off-the-shelf component, similar to how it brought its iPhone power management system design internal last year.
radarthekatdavesmall

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    Don’t worry. If Apple somehow designs and produces their own modem, Qualcomm will find some way to claim it uses Qualcomm-patented technology. :)
    SoundJudgmentllamawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 19
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,566member
    This is long overdue.
    Qualcomm is no longer a reliable business partner
    Intel is no longer a reliable technical partner.

    "If you want something done right, do it yourself"
    larryjwmuthuk_vanalingamberndogSoundJudgmentAppleExposedcaladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 19
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,759member
    Apple has grown lot with talent in chip engineering and cash on hand. If Apple decides to do something like having own cellular modem than Apple must have thought through that Apple can do it well. If not better than equal to Qualcomm's modem. Samsung, MediaTek are making their own 5G modem chips than why not Apple ?
    This will help Apple to combine CPU/GPU/modem/BT/WiFi/etc all on one SoC thus increasing performance and lowering power consumption increasing battery life
    AppleExposedcaladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    RhythmagicRhythmagic Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    Good move!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    Calling all lawyers! Place your order for your new Maserati and yacht now. The good times are about to roll!
    llama
  • Reply 6 of 19
    No doubt putting this group in San Diego means they plan to lure talent away from Qualcomm. Lots of engineering and legal issues to work around but they have lots of incentive to get this done. Apple has been burned more than once by relying too heavily on an outside supplier (eg: Think PowerPC, Nvidia, and Qualcomm).

    Steve Jobs Mantra: "Focus on delighting customers and both sales and profits will take care of themselves."

    Qualcomm's Mantra: "Screw over customers and then screw them over again."
    AppleExposedGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 373unconfirmed, member
    davesmall said:
    No doubt putting this group in San Diego means they plan to lure talent away from Qualcomm. Lots of engineering and legal issues to work around but they have lots of incentive to get this done. Apple has been burned more than once by relying too heavily on an outside supplier (eg: Think PowerPC, Nvidia, and Qualcomm).

    Steve Jobs Mantra: "Focus on delighting customers and both sales and profits will take care of themselves."

    Qualcomm's Mantra: "Screw over customers and then screw them over again."
    I suspect a lot of Qualcomm employees hate the company also and would happily jump to Apple. Similar to what happened to Blackberry a few years ago when their best talent was jumping to Apple.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 19
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,179member
    The way to go if you are not happy with what potential suppliers can provide on both a technical and delivery level. It makes sense for those reasons. On the other hand, costs could increase (patent licencing included) and the finished product will have to be competitive. 

    Either way I think it makes sense to bring the design in house.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 19
    So, just in time for a A-Series MacBook Air?

    Personally, I think this is going to be along term project at Apple.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple's 5 years away...
    ksec
  • Reply 10 of 19
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,001member
    The good thing about doing this is Apple would own it. The bad thing is that they would own it. If they can do it well then they could potentially escape the issues with Qualcomm's extortion and Intel's reportedly subpar performance. They could also potentially effect efficiency and maybe eve performance gains by integrating with their other hardware.

    I can see many potential pitfalls, though - not the least of which involve patent and intellectual property issues. It's a pretty safe bet that Qualcomm would provide the lawyers with plenty of suits, whether they were justified or not. Intel has clearly had to work hard to get chips approaching the same performance that QC has, so the engineering and design issues can't be trivial, and if they do use their own chip and end up with issues it has the potential to backfire. Still, given all the grief they're having to deal with with QC the potential benefits may make it worth it.

    Also, they can certainly work on a chip and still source Intell/QC/??? modems until it's ready, so they're only out the money. How much could it cost?
    edited February 7 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    ksecksec Posts: 1,543member
    So, just in time for a A-Series MacBook Air?

    Personally, I think this is going to be along term project at Apple.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple's 5 years away...
    It kind of depends. If Apple could get Mediatek to license their IP, it could be 2021. If not even if they buy other 5G IP to work with, 2021 is still way too early. I think it is a Safe bet for 2022.

    They are VERY late to the game, so even 2022 is assuming they go full throttle. It will also make sense in 2022, because no one will be using any 3G CDMA Network by then. 
    edited February 7
  • Reply 12 of 19
    So, just in time for a A-Series MacBook Air?

    Personally, I think this is going to be along term project at Apple.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple's 5 years away...
    More likely the MacBook.   They set the direction for the MBA with the last upgrade (if you can call it that).
  • Reply 13 of 19
    ksec said:
    So, just in time for a A-Series MacBook Air?

    Personally, I think this is going to be along term project at Apple.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple's 5 years away...
    It kind of depends. If Apple could get Mediatek to license their IP, it could be 2021. If not even if they buy other 5G IP to work with, 2021 is still way too early. I think it is a Safe bet for 2022.

    They are VERY late to the game, so even 2022 is assuming they go full throttle. It will also make sense in 2022, because no one will be using any 3G CDMA Network by then. 
    Sept 2022 for 2023?
    Samsung is licking their chops and gearing up production.   People buy Apple because they are the best.  But, for most, its not a loyalty thing.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    How close are we to celluar modems being software that could run on the range of processing units in the Ax chip anyway?


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 19
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,610member
    wanderso said:
    Don’t worry. If Apple somehow designs and produces their own modem, Qualcomm will find some way to claim it uses Qualcomm-patented technology. :)
    The probably can if QualComm patents are adopted for the Standard.    Then its a question of arguing over the Price of licensing the patents.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,610member
    This is long overdue.
    Qualcomm is no longer a reliable business partner
    Intel is no longer a reliable technical partner.

    "If you want something done right, do it yourself"
    And iPhone without QualComm is a poorer performing phone.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 19
    k2kw said:
    This is long overdue.
    Qualcomm is no longer a reliable business partner
    Intel is no longer a reliable technical partner.

    "If you want something done right, do it yourself"
    And iPhone without QualComm is a poorer performing phone.


    Dang, I'm tired of your trolling. I'm adding you to my block list.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 19
    I hope every device will be always online one day, with signal strength and bandwidth getting less important because they are getting common. Musks Starlink could be part of the solution. 
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMac
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