Why Intel’s smartphone strategy went off the rails yet again

“Intel recently scrapped its plans to sell 5G modems for smartphones, shortly after its top customer, Apple, announced that it would start using Qualcomm’s modems again,” Leo Sun reports for The Motley Fool. “Apple previously used Qualcomm’s modems, but it started using Intel’s modems exclusively amid legal disputes with Qualcomm over unpaid rebates and high licensing fees. However, Intel’s 5G technology efforts consistently trailed Qualcomm’s.”

“Let’s take a look back at Intel’s past mobile failures, and what they might mean for its future,” Sun reports. “Intel once claimed that Apple wouldn’t sell meaningful quantities of the iPhone, and refused to produce CPUs for the first device over a decade ago. Apple eventually bought CPUs from Samsung before designing its own A-series processors… Intel actually owned an ARM chip producer, XScale, but it sold the unit to Marvell in 2006. Intel thought it could leverage its leading positions in the PC and data center markets — which mainly use x86 CPUs instead of ARM ones — to promote the use of its Atom x86 CPU for mobile devices. Unfortunately, Intel’s x86 CPUs weren’t as power efficient as ARM CPUs, and mobile device makers — which prioritized battery life over horsepower — flocked to ARM chipmakers.”

“In mid-2016, Intel finally discontinued its production of Atom SoCs for smartphones. That same year it started supplying 4G modems to Apple, which split its orders between Intel and Qualcomm,” Sun reports. “Yet Intel’s 4G modems were consistently slower than Qualcomm’s, which forced Apple to cap the speeds of Qualcomm’s modems to eliminate disparities between its own phones.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Next up: Apple dumps feckless Intel for superior Apple-designed SoCs in Macs.

Why did Intel kill off their modem program? – April 18, 2019
Here’s what likely happened between Apple, Qualcomm and Intel – April 17, 2019
Intel axes 5G modem plans after Apple and Qualcomm settle – April 17, 2019
After settlement with Apple, Qualcomm still faces other potential legal fallout – April 16, 2019
Qualcomm and Apple settle, agree to drop all litigation – April 16, 2019
Some of Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phones have much better LTE chips than the others – September 29, 2017
Analyst: Apple’s going to dump Intel modems if they keep lagging Qualcomm – December 5, 2016
Yes, Apple is throttling download speeds for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Verizon and Sprint versions – November 19, 2016
Apple’s modem choices may leave Verizon iPhone users feeling throttled – November 18, 2016
Tests show iPhone 7 Plus models with Qualcomm modem perform significantly better than those with Intel modem – October 20, 2016


    1. If you think Microsoft is a has been you aren’t paying attention to their performance since Nadella turned things around. Their software and services have been raking it in.

    1. Easy they sat on thir laurels thinking they had no real opposition.

      Actually at the time it was reported Intel tried hard to get Apple to use Atom chips in the first iPhone but Apple rejected them as not being up to the job. Thereafter to save face they tried to write off the iPhone’s chances while hyping those who did use them despite it bang obvious they were less well placed than Apple to succeed with their copycat products which contradicts the idea they did not want to actually supply Atom chips to Apple. Strange that that has been reported so differently and I believe incorrectly since.

    2. Not a puzzle. It is called a “mature industry”. In addition to great engineers, you need a strategy to avoid becoming irrelevant as your industry matures. Producing modem chips was an attempt to seize a strategy that is compelling even when processor power becomes a commodity. They tried to beat the incumbent (Qualcomm) but did not succeed.

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