Apple might debut first in-house modem in 2021 as it questions Intel's ability to deliver ...

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 4
A report on Wednesday highlights Apple's struggles to obtain 5G modem chips for its flagship iPhone by 2020, saying increasingly tense relations with current supplier Intel might delay those plans. That might not matter, as the company is on track to build its own modems that could debut in 2021.

Intel XMM 8160Intel's XMM 8160 5G modem.


Citing a source familiar with the matter, Fast Company reports Apple's rocky relationship with Intel is at a tipping point as the chipmaker has been missing development deadlines for its XMM 8160 5G modem. Apple has set cutoff points for sample chips in early summer, with a finished design due in early 2020, the report said.

The Apple-mandated deadlines are technically feasible if Intel makes good on its public pronouncements. In February, the firm said it expected to launch the XMM 8160 in the second half of 2019. Despite Intel's promises, Apple has "lost confidence" in the company's ability to manufacture the chip on time, the report said.

"As we said in November 2018, Intel plans to support customer device launches in 2020 with its XMM 8160 5G multimode modem," Intel said in a statement to AppleInsider.

For Intel, Apple's iPhone agreement -- a hard-fought win -- has become something of a conundrum. The job of managing Apple's project has changed hands three times, according to the source, and Intel stands to gain little from the deal in terms of immediate revenue due to negotiated terms.

The chipmaker accepted the contract to guarantee income as it makes upgrades to its chip fab, but Apple's demands are causing conflict within the company, the source said. Beyond development deadlines, Apple requires Intel to produce its modems first, putting high-margin orders on the back burner.

Apple might soon be free of Intel's internal strife, however, as the company is hard at work on its own in-house designed modem hardware.

According to the source, the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant has tasked between 1,200 and 2,000 engineers, including recruits from Intel and Qualcomm, to the modem project based out of a facility in San Diego. Fast Company speculates Apple's chip designs will be fabricated by current partner TSMC or past silicon collaborator Samsung, with an anticipated arrival date in 2021.

Today's report lines up with rumblings about an Apple-designed modem that have become louder over the past few months. Shades of the project were first seen in 2014 but rumors solidified late last year when Apple was said to be eyeing the area -- home to Qualcomm's headquarters -- as the cite of its modem development operation. More recently, the company reportedly shifted the modem program from Ruben Caballero, who reported to SVP of Hardware Engineering Dan Ricco, to SVP of Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji.

As for 2020, Apple has few options beyond Intel and supplier-turned-legal-enemy Qualcomm. Apple recently discussed near-term modem supply options with Mediatek and Samsung, but neither firm is in a position to furnish 5G chips for iPhone by 2020, the source said. That sentiment was echoed by UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri in a note to investors on Wednesday.

Considering Apple's ongoing legal struggle with Qualcomm, Intel appears to be the company's only viable source for 5G chips.

Updated with statement from Intel.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,959member
    When Apple makes it's own 5G chip, Intel's 5G chip is as good as dead. Let's be honest. Without Apple, Intel's 5G chip has no future. It will whether and die. So, in God's name, Intel get that damn 5G chip ready soon and keep Apple happy.
    edited April 3 jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    netroxnetrox Posts: 740member
    it makes ARM Apple Macs inevitable.
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 11
    FatmanFatman Posts: 291member
    Thank you Intel for inventing the microprocessor, but your moment in the sun is done. You’ve held back innovation in the industry in the 80s and 90s. No more monopolies to rely on, you’ve lost your edge. Your power hungry CISC chips (with built-in pathetic GPUs) are no longer welcome in this modern age. Complacency kills. It’s a shame - blame the greedy executives that run the company - they should all be canned.
    monstrositySoliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 11
    netrox said:
    it makes ARM Apple Macs inevitable.
    Intel has reportedly already said (privately, not publicly) it expects Apple to use their own ARM processors starting as soon as next year. 

    Regarding a 2021 rollout of Apple’s baseband chip, it’s certainly possible if they started back in 2014 as rumored. But if the project only recently began in earnest, I don’t think 2021 is even remotely accurate. It’s a very heavy lift, and I don’t doubt there could be 2,000 engineers dedicated to making it happen. But it’s not a two year development timeline, even for the extremely competent Apple silicon group. Of course I could be wrong, those folks have surprised me more than once!
    edited April 4 flyingdpnetroxcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,365member
    Up to 2000 employees working on the modem. That puts into perspective how much effort needs to go into what’s perceived as “just one small component” of the whole product. 
    jbdragoncornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 11
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 44unconfirmed, member
    Fatman said:
    Thank you Intel for inventing the microprocessor, but your moment in the sun is done. You’ve held back innovation in the industry in the 80s and 90s. No more monopolies to rely on, you’ve lost your edge. Your power hungry CISC chips (with built-in pathetic GPUs) are no longer welcome in this modern age. Complacency kills. It’s a shame - blame the greedy executives that run the company - they should all be canned.
    This article is talking about the iPhone, not all of the products. Intel is not going away because they have many other customers besides Apple. And if they put an ARM chip in the iPhone, the question is whether the price will get jacked up even more. I don't think the modem quality of the ARM chip will be that much different than Intel's. The problem is even exacerbated even more when Apple is said to be holding off on 5G until 2021-2022, or about due to the imminent roll out this year from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc. 

    In short, that's Apple's mistake for cornering itself in relying on Intel for the modem chips while fighting Qualcomm. One has to ask why did Apple wait so long to ditch Intel to get into modem production rather than years ago? I don't see Apple going with a 5G modem by 2020 under such tight deadlines. More like 2021 or 2022, unless they resolve or clean up their disputes with Qualcomm or Intel quickly. Intel just got a new CEO recently so it's going to take some time for it to straighten out some of its issues. I don't think the modem quality is going to be that much different between ARM and Qualcomm's. 

    What you should be worried about is if Apple is going to put their own ARM or A-series ( not modems ) chips in their desktops which could get problematic from what I'm hearing on forums like here. 
  • Reply 7 of 11
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,374member
    Fatman said:
    Thank you Intel for inventing the microprocessor, but your moment in the sun is done. You’ve held back innovation in the industry in the 80s and 90s. No more monopolies to rely on, you’ve lost your edge. Your power hungry CISC chips (with built-in pathetic GPUs) are no longer welcome in this modern age. Complacency kills. It’s a shame - blame the greedy executives that run the company - they should all be canned.
    This article is talking about the iPhone, not all of the products. Intel is not going away because they have many other customers besides Apple. And if they put an ARM chip in the iPhone, the question is whether the price will get jacked up even more. I don't think the modem quality of the ARM chip will be that much different than Intel's. The problem is even exacerbated even more when Apple is said to be holding off on 5G until 2021-2022, or about due to the imminent roll out this year from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc. 

    In short, that's Apple's mistake for cornering itself in relying on Intel for the modem chips while fighting Qualcomm. One has to ask why did Apple wait so long to ditch Intel to get into modem production rather than years ago? I don't see Apple going with a 5G modem by 2020 under such tight deadlines. More like 2021 or 2022, unless they resolve or clean up their disputes with Qualcomm or Intel quickly. Intel just got a new CEO recently so it's going to take some time for it to straighten out some of its issues. I don't think the modem quality is going to be that much different between ARM and Qualcomm's. 

    What you should be worried about is if Apple is going to put their own ARM or A-series ( not modems ) chips in their desktops which could get problematic from what I'm hearing on forums like here. 
    Apple essentially had to figure out whether they were going to keep paying The Godfather billions of dollars in extortion, or put up a fight and risk early access to a 5G modem (and the potential costs.) It obviously chose the latter, but they were in a no-win situation. I have no idea what the technical specs are, but back when 4G was being introduced, Apple reportedly held off until the 2nd or 3rd generation of chips were available because of performance and power concerns. I wouldn’t be surprised if they expected to do the same with 5G as well.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,124member
    Up to 2000 employees working on the modem. That puts into perspective how much effort needs to go into what’s perceived as “just one small component” of the whole product. 
    If you're starting from scratch and are in a RUSH, you throw a lot of people into it. Once it's done, that group should shrink down to at least half. Then that group would fine tune it to make it better year after year, maybe start working on 6G or whatever future format. Not in such a huge rush at that point.

    I knew at some point Apple would start making their own modems. Eve if there wasn't some Intel issues. Apple is creating more and more of their own chips. it started with the CPU, but they now have their GPU, and Battery Controller chip now I think, along with the W1 and H1 and T1 chips and whatever else I can't think of off the top of my head. It's a matter of time before you see APple switch to using their own processors in Mac's. Now sure how that will go with wanting to run Windows on your Mac with a A* CPU/GPU?!?! Or if people would want Apple's processor on any of the Mac Pro's.

    It's all just a matter of time as Apple brings more and more in house.
    edited April 4 cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 11
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,618member
    wood1208 said:
    When Apple makes it's own 5G chip, Intel's 5G chip is as good as dead. Let's be honest. Without Apple, Intel's 5G chip has no future. It will whether and die. So, in God's name, Intel get that damn 5G chip ready soon and keep Apple happy.
    The source article claims that Intel has been prioritizing Apple, known for being demanding, and not properly addressing much more profitable companies and product lines. Since they have a new CEO he may think it's better for Intel not to ignore those customers who will be staying with them for the long-haul and making better profits in the process. According to evidence Apple isn't sticking with them anyway even if Intel did meet all of their demands.

    Why put so much effort into making Apple happy for a year or two until they replace them anyway? According to the source that may be the Intel thinking. 
    edited April 4 cornchip
  • Reply 10 of 11
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,762member
    gatorguy said:
    wood1208 said:
    When Apple makes it's own 5G chip, Intel's 5G chip is as good as dead. Let's be honest. Without Apple, Intel's 5G chip has no future. It will whether and die. So, in God's name, Intel get that damn 5G chip ready soon and keep Apple happy.
    The source article claims that Intel has been prioritizing Apple, known for being demanding, and not properly addressing much more profitable companies and product lines. Since they have a new CEO he may think it's better for Intel not to ignore those customers who will be staying with them for the long-haul and making better profits in the process. According to evidence Apple isn't sticking with them anyway even if Intel did meet all of their demands.

    Why put so much effort into making Apple happy for a year or two until they replace them anyway? According to the source that may be the Intel thinking. 
    Intel must still be smarting from Apple driving them to produce that Core processor for the first Mac Book Air.  /s

    Intel has been ignoring its customers for years, what with delays of the 10 nm node, and they surely want to have a modern modem for their notebooks as 5G gets built out. Not seeing Apple's demands as anything but beneficial to Intel. You know, the guys that dropped the ball on SOC's long ago.
    edited April 4 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,365member
    jbdragon said:
    Up to 2000 employees working on the modem. That puts into perspective how much effort needs to go into what’s perceived as “just one small component” of the whole product. 
    If you're starting from scratch and are in a RUSH, you throw a lot of people into it. Once it's done, that group should shrink down to at least half. Then that group would fine tune it to make it better year after year, maybe start working on 6G or whatever future format. Not in such a huge rush at that point.

    I knew at some point Apple would start making their own modems. Eve if there wasn't some Intel issues. Apple is creating more and more of their own chips. it started with the CPU, but they now have their GPU, and Battery Controller chip now I think, along with the W1 and H1 and T1 chips and whatever else I can't think of off the top of my head. It's a matter of time before you see APple switch to using their own processors in Mac's. Now sure how that will go with wanting to run Windows on your Mac with a A* CPU/GPU?!?! Or if people would want Apple's processor on any of the Mac Pro's.

    It's all just a matter of time as Apple brings more and more in house.
    Agreed. My point is just that for people who have no clue about the design effort they might think “that little bit of circuitry needs 20 people, maybe 25.” :)
    watto_cobra
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