Intel did not keep up with 5G chips by 2020, Qualcomm, Samsung did not sell, Apple mobilized 1,200 engineers to make their own modem chips for iPhone.

Tram Ho

While Intel is finding it hard to deliver a 5G modem to the iPhone 2020, both Qualcomm and Samsung are rejecting an offer from Apple.

So far, Apple’s plan is to launch the iPhone 5G in 2020. But the increasingly stormy relationship with Intel, the 5G modem provider for Apple, could prevent that from happening.

For years, Intel has tried its best to become an exclusive modem provider for Apple’s iPhone. Currently the giant chip maker is also the exclusive supplier of 5G modems for the iPhone 2020. However, according to a source close to the matter, they are missing the deadline for developing 5G modem chips. My XMM 8160.

To be able to supply a large number of modems in time for the iPhone launched in September 2020, Intel needs to deliver samples to Apple in early summer this year and later, providing designs. Modems were completed in early 2020. In November last year, Intel said it planned to ship modems 5G 8160 in the second half of 2019.

However, sources from Fast Company said that Apple is no longer confident that Intel will deliver chips on time.

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A difficult guest

According to sources from Fast Company, on Intel’s side, managing the relationship with Apple is a difficult task when the person in charge will have to monitor at least three other project managers.

Apple is famous as a highly demanding customer. Their continuous modem orders always require Intel to meet the development and production deadlines. Apple also offered an attractive price for chip versions and let Intel only have a minimum profit. Even so – because they are Apple – they always demand that their orders be prioritized before other Intel customers.

Intel không làm kịp chip 5G vào 2020, Qualcomm, Samsung thì không bán, Apple huy động 1.200 kỹ sư tự làm chip modem riêng cho iPhone - Ảnh 1.

Intel’s 5G XMM 8160.

So why would Intel have to wrestle Apple to win modem production orders from Qualcomm? Much is due to the economics of chip manufacturing. Intel’s chip processing plants have extremely expensive construction costs.

The company uses a 14nm process to make modems 7560 used on the iPhone 2018, but now they have to switch to 10nm process and then 7nm to keep up with other competitors like TSMC. The contract with Apple became attractive to Intel because it was an opportunity to bring large orders to chip mills and thus would be cost effective to produce in large quantities.

But contracts with Apple may also harm Intel. Because Apple needs to make their orders a top priority for Intel’s factories, that means the company will have to reduce priority for higher-margin chip orders, such as chips. for data center servers.

Fast Company’s source said that Intel is conflicting about its business with Apple. The new Intel CEO, Robert Swan, is almost out of the question for Intel, having just joined the company in 2016 as CFO. With such a foundation, Mr. Swan may have a more favorable view of business with Apple and that will explain why the company does not focus on more profitable traditional products.

The wind changed direction

Meanwhile, Apple has shown itself ready to design its own modem. A source of Fast Company said that the company now has a group of 1,000 to 1,200 engineers working on modem chips for the iPhone in the future. Apple has recruited RF (radio frequency) engineers from both Intel and Qualcomm to work in a new development facility in San Diego and development activities are rapidly underway.

It is possible that future iPhone modem chips will be designed by Apple employees at that facility, and then processed by TSMC or Samsung. But maybe the product will be for iPhone 2021 or beyond.

Meanwhile, with the iPhone 2020, there is no option for Apple to be feasible. UBS bank analyst Timothy Arcuri said in a note yesterday: “We don’t believe (Intel) will be ready with a late 5G modem next year, while other options like Samsung or MediaTek will be solutions or do not meet the technical standards (MediaTek) or unrealistic (Samsung). ”

A source said, Apple recently held talks with both Samsung and MediaTek to provide modem chips in the short term. Samsung is also trying to sell its 5G modem chip for use on phones other than Samsung. But the source agrees with Arcuri that both Samsung and MediaTek will be unable to provide modems for iPhone 5G in 2020. That means the iPhone 5G 2020, or will use Intel chips, or it will be a mistake. Apple appointment.

The source from Fast Company said that the most reasonable option for Apple now is to go back to the 5G modem from Qualcomm. But the legal clash between the two companies made the cooperation almost impossible in the short term.

Neither Apple nor Intel have commented on this.

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