Apple’s homegrown 5G modem project falls even further behind

Qualcomm to supply Apple with 5G modems through 2026
Qualcomm to will supply Apple with 5G modems at least through 2026

Apple has fallen even further behind in its multibillion-dollar effort to make its own modem chips with the intent of removing Qualcomm as a supplier.

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg News:

After already delaying a plan to have an in-house chip ready by next year, Apple is now likely to miss a goal to ship the component by the spring of 2025, according to people familiar with the situation. That would postpone the release until at least the end of 2025 or early 2026 — the final year of Apple’s recently extended contract with Qualcomm.

Thousands of employees have worked on the project since 2018, and still Apple remains years away from cracking the problem. Its goal is for the modem to download data faster than current technology. But people with knowledge of the project, who asked not to be identified, believe that’s unlikely based on the current state of development.

For its part, Qualcomm expects to supply at least a portion of Apple’s modem chips in 2026. It has said that Qualcomm will account for about a fifth of the components that year — an amount that could go higher. “We are planning as if we’re going to get 20% share,” Akash Palkhiwala, Qualcomm’s chief financial officer, told analysts earlier this month. “But to the extent that we get more than that, that’d be upside.”

Apple’s plan is to eventually bring its in-house modem to the iPad and smartwatch, following a launch in the iPhone.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s contracts with Qualcomm are made to be extended. At this rate, Apple won’t ship a product with an Apple modem before 2030.

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  1. Wireless communications and chips are not so simple. This is a truly complex engineering challenge. Trying to hit a moving target, on evolving roads controlled by others, in an unfinished vehicle going 100 MPH. Owning core, fundamental technology would be nice but the market dynamics may be too fluid and the external variables too uncertain. This is a perfect example of why a walled garden is so nice.

    I do not envy Apple’s management team on having to decide what to do going forward.

    1. As long as the walled garden doesn’t repeat the “Galapagos” smartphones situation in Japan where the devices may have been advanced in some areas but fell behind the rest of the world overall.

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