Apple’s first in-house cellular modems expected in 2023: Analysts

Apple has been designing its own A-series chips for the iPhone (and more) since the days of the iPhone 4. In 2020, the tech giant is phasing out Intel chips from its Mac lineup in favor of the in-house designed M-series Apple Silicon.

According to a report from The Wall Street JournalAfter that, Cupertino set its sights on the wireless modem.

As Apple heads toward unprecedented vertical integration, the next big step for the iPhone maker is to create its own chipsets that enable cellular and wireless internet connectivity on its devices. We can see Apple achieve this goal by 2023.

There has been speculation that Apple has been working on its own cellular modems since 2018.

In early 2019, Apple reportedly assembled an in-house modem engineering team led by Senior Vice President of Hardware Technology and Head of Chip Industry, Johnny Srouji. The company also acquired the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business (including employees) later in the year.

In fact, Srouji reportedly confirmed in a meeting with employees in 2020 that Apple was working on its own cellular modems for future devices.

Almost 100% of the 5G modems used in Apple devices today are supplied by Qualcomm. However, Qualcomm’s chief financial officer said in November 2021 that the company only expects to supply 20% of the 5G modems Apple needs in 2023 – another indication that Apple will take over the supply of another key component of its devices.

Moving to chipsets designed in-house for connectivity would not only allow Apple to better integrate modems with the Apple Silicon powering its devices, but would also reduce cost.

According to a recent analysis of the cost of materials in the latest iPhone SE, the cost of the phone’s cellular modem is equal to (or more) the cost of the A-15 Bionic processor that serves as its “brain”.

Moreover, making its own cellular modems will significantly reduce Apple’s reliance on third-party suppliers such as Qualcomm at a turbulent time for global supply chains.

iPhones and iPads aren’t the only devices that can take advantage of cellular modems. Apple could stick a 5G modem into a Mac, or even shrink its designs down to a size that could fit AirPods or, more likely, the tech giant’s much-rumored mixed reality headset.

“Once Apple is able to improve the technology for the 5G modem in the iPhone, all they have to do is scale that technology down to a chipset that fits in, say, your Apple glasses,” Wayne Lamm, senior director of technology research for the company Consulting CCS Insight, said The Wall Street Journal.

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