Apple may be working on its own antenna technology for the 5G 'iPhone 12'

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2020
Reports have emerged in the last 24 hours with contradictory sources all claiming to have the inside track on the details surrounding the antenna technology expected in the 5G "iPhone 12" -- with one claiming that Apple will do most of the work itself.

Qualcomm's X55 5G modem chip, expected to be used in the
Qualcomm's X55 5G modem chip, expected to be used in the "iPhone 12"


Multiple sources are chiming in on the antenna material, design, and supplier for components for the 5G "iPhone 12." One report claims that Apple is working with Qualcomm on a custom design for the antenna, and a second written by Ming-Chi Kuo claims that things are not quite as set, with some disarray behind-the-scenes in who is going to supply crucial power amplifying (PA) components in the antenna array.

Early on Friday, Kuo wrote a note to investors discussing the situation. In the note, seen by AppleInsider, Kuo said that the power amplifier situation incorporated in the antenna is still fluid.

Kuo originally believed that Broadcom and Avago would be responsible for design, with Win Semi providing production of the iPhone 5G PA circuitry associated with an antenna system. However, Kuo revised that, saying on Friday morning that Qorvo and Skyworks will replace Broadcom as the iPhone 5G PA's suppliers, while Broadcom will only focus on the suppling the mid to high band PA integrated with one of the many potential models expected in the fall of 2020.

A report on Friday afternoon suggested that things were a bit further along than determining who would supply the power amplifiers and how it would be delivered. Fast Company citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter believes that Apple "balked" at Qualcomm's QTM 525 set mmWave antenna module design -- which includes power amplifiers and Qualcomm's X55 modem -- because it would not work with Apple's planned design of the device.

The late Friday report suggests that Apple could be working on its own "phased array" antenna, different from the QTM 525. That seems unlikely, however, given Apple's deal for 5G with Qualcomm that it signed in 2019 that provides Apple the technology and licensing spanning the antenna to the modem, and everything in between.

Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

Further complicating and confusing the matter, Kuo claims that the 5G iPhone 12 was planned for a "2x2 uplink" design. It isn't clear exactly what Kuo is talking about here. Antenna architecture varies a bit with both the sub-6Ghz network and mmWave associated with 5G architecture, versus terminology and technology intended for the existing 4G network.

Both reports agree on one point -- the internal and external designs are not yet fixed. Kuo says that "the order allocation of iPhone 5G PA is not yet confirmed." Fast Company says something similar, claiming that it could revert back to Qualcomm's entire package at some point later in the design process.

Apple and 5G antenna design

The first reports of Apple working on a team dedicated to producing its own 5G modem started to emerge in February 2019. At the time, job listings for the department, said to be under Johny Srouji, 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.

At this point, Apple and Qualcomm had yet to start the legal battle over cellular technology licensing over the so-called "no license, no chips" provisos mandated by Qualcomm. It came to a head in April 2019, when Apple and Qualcomm announced a deal that ended the legal actions against each other. In the fallout of that deal, Intel exited the 5G modem business for smartphones.

Apple purchased Intel's modem business in July 2019. As part of the deal, it got Intel's cellular patent portfolio, said to include 6,000 patent assets associated with 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular standards, and 1,700 assets about wireless implementation technologies. A second portfolio also included covered just 500 patents with a "broad applicability" across both the semiconductor and electronics industries.

In October 2019, it was reported that Apple had set a 2022 deadline to develop an in-house cellular modem for use in iPhone and iPad. This would incorporate not just the antenna, but the modem chip as well -- very similar to what Qualcomm is rumored to possibly provide in the QTM 525 assembly.

It isn't yet clear what Apple has succeeded in developing. However, should the 2022 deadline be accurate, it is likely too early for Apple to have developed anything usable for a 5G modem and antenna suite for the "iPhone 12."

Details surrounding the forthcoming "iPhone 12"

Beyond 5G support, the 2020 "iPhone 12" is expected to get 3D depth sensing capabilities using the rear camera. It is also suggested Apple could bring back Touch ID by taking advantage of acoustic fingerprinting to turn the entire display into a fingerprint reader, something that has been featured in a few patent applications by the company.

Furthermore, the "iPhone 12" is predicted to have at least four discrete models, including 5.4-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear triple-cam plus time-of-flight sensors, and 6.7- inch OLED with rear triple-cam+ToF. Adding to the assortment of iPhones predicted for 2020, Kuo expects Apple to launch the 4.7-inch LCD "iPhone SE 2" in March 2020, with a form-factor similar to that of the iPhone 8.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    thttht Posts: 4,707member
    Sounds like component suppliers are squabbling and rumormongering. 

    The 2020 iPhone has to be in the validation stages now, with at minimum, component contract awards in the review phase. Ie, they are not waiting to see if a design works. They already know, and need to get the manufacturing lines ready for mass production and are evaluating which subs can do the job. Hard to believe there is uncertainty on the path forward. 
  • Reply 2 of 21
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,086member
    tht said:
    Sounds like component suppliers are squabbling and rumormongering. 

    The 2020 iPhone has to be in the validation stages now, with at minimum, component contract awards in the review phase. Ie, they are not waiting to see if a design works. They already know, and need to get the manufacturing lines ready for mass production and are evaluating which subs can do the job. Hard to believe there is uncertainty on the path forward. 
    I see it as Apple attempting to reduce attacks by patent trolls but no matter how unique their antenna design is someone will say it violates their patent. 
    StrangeDayslkrupp
  • Reply 3 of 21
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,778member
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm.

    Whaaaat? Since when has this been happening? This is shocking news.

    And yeah, as I recall, Apple has been making its own antennas at least since the iPhone 4 or so, I remember a feature about their testing facility after the “your holding it wrong” media beat up.  This is actually more about the Qualcomm modem, no?

    And Apple sure didn’t buy the Intel modem business to  bale out a failing friend.

    That said, I doubt any of this is for the iPhone 12, it is too soon, and it will be straight Qualcomm.

    In October 2019, it was reported that Apple had set a 2022 deadline to develop an in-house cellular modem for use in iPhone and iPad. This would incorporate not just the antenna, but the modem chip as well -- very similar to what Qualcomm is rumored to possibly provide in the QTM 525 assembly. 

    much more believable.


    caladanian
  • Reply 4 of 21
    Is the conflict between supplier choices real? I’m thinking Apple could be defining multiple supply chains.

    As for Apple’s licensing of Qualcomm IP. Does the agreement require Apple to purchase some quantity of Qualcomm chips? 
  • Reply 5 of 21
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,975member
    What processor cores are needed for the Modem that aren't already in the current shipping A13?

    Given the A13 is faster than any other SOC in the market and they resting on laurels either. Even if the chip got larger to accommodate extra space to service the modem role it would still save space in the design.

    All the iDevices come in a Cellular option it would seem to make sense for them to have been working on own solution for a long time.
  • Reply 6 of 21
    These reports are odd.  The iPhone 12’s design should have been finalized by now.  Apple has an antenna that worked with Intel.  Qualcomm has their stock antenna, which Apple has licensed along with the chip.

    The report is saying that Qualcomm’s antenna design is incompatible with the iPhone 12 design. So, Apple is trying to rework the Intel one to work with Qualcomm’s chip.  And, they’re trying to find someone to make it work (both in-house and through their suppliers).

    Doing that is dangerous... and is asking for Antennagate 2.0 (or is it 3.0).  If that’s really going on this late in the game, you might not want to be first in line for the iPhone 12.

    Doesn’t make sense...
  • Reply 7 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,521member
    I hope Apple is working with Elon Musk too so that iPhones can work with Starlink. 
  • Reply 8 of 21
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Nope. 

    The iPhone12 design will have been finalised some time last year. 

    And when he’s riven wrong, Mr “Well Connected” will make up some crap like, “Apple discovered a problem with the chip design so had to switch it out an hour before production was due to start.”
    pscooter63lkruppcaladanian
  • Reply 9 of 21
    Surprising that AppleInsider isn’t pointing out the obvious, which is that component selection for the next iPhone has already been finalised. If the discussions referenced in this article are true, then it’ll be for the 2021 iPhone, not this year’s. 
  • Reply 10 of 21
    It's amusing if true and underlines the problem with how the patent system currently works.

    If the patent holder is not willing to produce optimal designs, then the industry becomes hamstrung for lack lustre designs. Other than a few key players such as Apple, there would be few who would invest the R&D capital into developing a design that relies on a 3rd parties patents.
    When it comes to standard technologies FRAND pricing should have a set cost for all manufacturers, a volume pricing model that doesn't prevent small companies from participating or milk successful ones. (Since the patent is the same for both companies and a % of the device cost does not take into account the variation between simple and complex devices.)


    Speaking of poisoned chalice, perhaps Apple could patent their new novel antenna design, thus giving them a better position to negotiate with the original patent holders.
  • Reply 11 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

  • Reply 12 of 21
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.


    I trust Apples long track record to innovate. Apple users will be fine.
    tmay
  • Reply 13 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,314member
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

    So I assume you don't believe Huawei would act on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services if asked? If the Chinese government ordered Huawei to install a surveillance chip in their 5G modem they would refuse and trumpet it to the world? You really believe that? Huawei supporters keep claiming there is no evidence that Huawei is doing anything on behalf of the Chinese government. Do you have any evidence that they are not? Anyway, I don't think k it's a good  idea to add further reliance on Chinese technology to American products when American companies (Qualcomm) are perfectly capable of doing the job.

    Oh, and it's now being reported that Chinese actors were responsible for the Equifax hack in which millions of American's credit data was stolen.
    edited February 2020 Beatscaladanian
  • Reply 14 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    lkrupp said:
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

    So I assume you don't believe Huawei would act on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services if asked? ...
    No, of course not.   Only Trump, his minions and his cult believe that nonsense.  The rest of the world is moving on with the best technology at the cheapest price.

  • Reply 15 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    Beats said:
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.


    I trust Apples long track record to innovate. Apple users will be fine.

    Yes, I agree that they will, eventually, move beyond this fiasco.   But its gone on too long already.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,016member
    lkrupp said:
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

    So I assume you don't believe Huawei would act on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services if asked? If the Chinese government ordered Huawei to install a surveillance chip in their 5G modem they would refuse and trumpet it to the world? You really believe that? Huawei supporters keep claiming there is no evidence that Huawei is doing anything on behalf of the Chinese government. Do you have any evidence that they are not? Anyway, I don't think k it's a good  idea to add further reliance on Chinese technology to American products when American companies (Qualcomm) are perfectly capable of doing the job.

    Oh, and it's now being reported that Chinese actors were responsible for the Equifax hack in which millions of American's credit data was stolen.
    I always assumed it was either the Chinese, North Koreans, or Russians responsible for the Equifax hacks.

    I firmly believe that the shotgun-wedding between Apple and Qualcomm is going to end badly when the deal between the two expires.  Apple wants to control all the tech that goes into their products, and that definitely includes the modems.  I would bet money that Apple is just using Qualcomm's chips as a buffer for when it's time to jettison Qualcomm like a bad habit and run with its own tech.  I'm curious how much of a hit Qualcomm's stock will take when that day comes.  If any company (imho) deserves to go down in flames, it's Qualcomm.  They know they're on limited time and no matter what, they will be ill-prepared for it.  The seedy things they did to try ripping-off Apple was just shameful.  Too bad it was settled in the end.  I'd really wished Apple has taken it to the end.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,714member
    There's a lot in this article that just doesn't make sense. As many people have commented above, the design for the 12 should be finalized by now. Beyond that antenna design is not necessarily straight forward, nor is pairing it with the modem and integrating it with a phone. Especially for the first generation I would expect Apple to use QC antennae to pair with the QC modem.

    There have been a lot of rumors about Apple working on its own 5G modem and I would fully believe that they are also working on an antenna to go with it. I wouldn't expect either of these to come out this fall, though.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 18 of 21
    sflocal said:
    lkrupp said:
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

    So I assume you don't believe Huawei would act on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services if asked? If the Chinese government ordered Huawei to install a surveillance chip in their 5G modem they would refuse and trumpet it to the world? You really believe that? Huawei supporters keep claiming there is no evidence that Huawei is doing anything on behalf of the Chinese government. Do you have any evidence that they are not? Anyway, I don't think k it's a good  idea to add further reliance on Chinese technology to American products when American companies (Qualcomm) are perfectly capable of doing the job.

    Oh, and it's now being reported that Chinese actors were responsible for the Equifax hack in which millions of American's credit data was stolen.
    I always assumed it was either the Chinese, North Koreans, or Russians responsible for the Equifax hacks.

    I firmly believe that the shotgun-wedding between Apple and Qualcomm is going to end badly when the deal between the two expires.  Apple wants to control all the tech that goes into their products, and that definitely includes the modems.  I would bet money that Apple is just using Qualcomm's chips as a buffer for when it's time to jettison Qualcomm like a bad habit and run with its own tech.  I'm curious how much of a hit Qualcomm's stock will take when that day comes.  If any company (imho) deserves to go down in flames, it's Qualcomm.  They know they're on limited time and no matter what, they will be ill-prepared for it.  The seedy things they did to try ripping-off Apple was just shameful.  Too bad it was settled in the end.  I'd really wished Apple has taken it to the end.

    With the way our justice department and China have been politicized,  we still don't know who hacked Equifax.  Basically, the justice department takes its marching orders from the president.

    But yeh, the Apple - Qualcomm thing is temporary.  Apple got painted into a corner and had to use them to have access to 5G technology till they can develop their own.
    edited February 2020
  • Reply 19 of 21
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,975member
    lkrupp said:
    ....
    Fast Company further suggests that there is "bad blood" at some level between Apple and Qualcomm. The source cited in the report say that Apple feels as an institution that is is "getting screwed on royalties" despite the deal, and are trying to minimize Qualcomm parts in the "iPhone 12."

    ....
    Yes, well, if you didn't already know that you've been living under a rock somewhere.
    Apple only went back to Qualcomm after every other option to get 5G failed them -- and they still want to get away from them as soon as they can.  

    But, there is yet another option -- and probably the best one:  Huawei is the world leader in 5G technology.  But, Trump and his agenda forced Apple into using 2nd & 3rd rate options.

    And the losers are us.
    When will this silliness end?  State of the art technology is complicated enough without adding politics into the equation.

    So I assume you don't believe Huawei would act on behalf of the Chinese intelligence services if asked? If the Chinese government ordered Huawei to install a surveillance chip in their 5G modem they would refuse and trumpet it to the world? You really believe that? Huawei supporters keep claiming there is no evidence that Huawei is doing anything on behalf of the Chinese government. Do you have any evidence that they are not? Anyway, I don't think k it's a good  idea to add further reliance on Chinese technology to American products when American companies (Qualcomm) are perfectly capable of doing the job.

    Oh, and it's now being reported that Chinese actors were responsible for the Equifax hack in which millions of American's credit data was stolen.
    If five eye countries, like the USA, UK and my own Australia, weren't constantly pushing for data to travel in insecure ways then there would be nothing for them to spy on at the behest of another government entity.  
  • Reply 20 of 21
    MacPro said:
    I hope Apple is working with Elon Musk too so that iPhones can work with Starlink. 

    Apple is building out their own Satellite service.
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