11/05 Update below. This post was originally published on November 3
Hotly tipped iPhone 15 upgrades are dropping like flies, and now one of the biggest looks is certain to miss the cut.
Apple’s much-hyped in-house 5G modem will no longer debut with the release of the iPhone 15 range in 2023, and it signals a major setback for Apple’s modem division. The news emerged following comments from Apple modem supplier Qualcomm in its earnings report yesterday.
Picked up by Bloomberg, Qualcomm told investors that it will continue to supply the “vast majority” of modem chips for Apple’s iPhone 15 range in 2023. The company said it had previously expected to provide just 20% of iPhone 5G modems by this time, given Apple’s ambitious roadmap for its own 5G modems.
11/04 Update: I can now confirm the Qualcomm comments reported by Bloomberg, which in turn confirm Apple’s modem ambitions are delayed for at least another iPhone generation.
11/05 Update: The same source has now added more detail to Qualcomm’s comments, claiming that the company expects to keep supplying Apple with modems for iPhone models for at least the next three generations.
The source also says Qualcomm is not expecting Apple to replace Qualcomm modems all at once, instead rolling them out in increasing percentages with each successive iPhone generation. It makes perfect sense. The company has also attempted this model before.
Apple was already looking to diversify its modem suppliers when it began integrating Intel modems into iPhones with the iPhone 11. Performance issues cut the experiment short, but Apple was motivated enough to buy Intel’s smartphone modem division in 2019 to make a go of the chips itself.
Since then, the lack of a commercial product has shown competing with Qualcomm is no small task. That said, the potential gain for Apple is twofold. First, it gains further control of its supply chain. Second, it can integrate in-house modems earlier in the design process, potentially unlocking increased performance and battery efficiencies.
As such, while delayed, I don’t see Apple dropping its modem ambitions any time soon.