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Apple’s own 5G modems might come to iPhones later than expected

Apple will once again rely on Qualcomm modems for its 2023 iPhones, Qualcomm said on its Q4 2022 earnings call, meaning that we’ll be waiting a little while longer for Apple to introduce its long-rumored custom 5G modem.

Nikkei reported in 2021 that Apple was looking to introduce its own 5G modem in partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) in 2023, and Qualcomm had previously assumed that it would account for 20 percent of modem orders of the 2023 iPhones. However, on Wednesday’s call, Qualcomm CFO Akash Palkhiwala said that the company now expects to “have the vast majority of share of 5G modems for the 2023 iPhone launch.”

Apple bought “the majority” of Intel’s smartphone modem business three months after its surprise 2019 settlement with Qualcomm, so it’s not exactly a secret that the company is working on its own modems. After the success of its many custom chips for things like iPhones, Macs, and Apple Watches, it’s not surprising that Apple would want to make its own version of one of the most important pieces of a smartphone.

But Apple’s efforts have reportedly run into some snags. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported in June that Qualcomm would be the exclusive supplier of 5G chips for the 2023 iPhones after modem chip development “may have failed,” and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said in July that Apple’s modem prototypes have been overheating “over the past year or so.” Whatever is going on behind the scenes, it all means that Qualcomm gets to be a big supplier for another set of iPhones, which could be a boon after what might be a rough holiday season this year.

Qualcomm is assuming “minimal contribution from Apple product revenues in fiscal 25,” Palkhiwala said on Wednesday’s call, which could point to Apple’s own modems appearing as late as the 2025 iPhones.

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