One of the biggest losers of the mobile business that Apple shaped for the past 10 years — you know, aside from all the smartphone makers the iPhone destroyed — is Intel. For years, Intel tried to get a piece of the pie, but almost nobody chose any Intel chips.
Apple was, and continues to be, the most critical smartphone maker to any component manufacturer, Intel included. But Intel failed to win Apple’s business until very recently. Admittedly, Apple’s exclusivity deal with Qualcomm had something to do with that. But Intel is reportedly not going to be part of the first iPhone 5G model, and Apple’s decision may have delivered a massive blow to Intel’s expectations.
The first 5G-ready Android devices will likely drop early next year just as the first 5G cellular networks will be turned on around the world. But Apple probably isn’t going to have an iPhone ready for 5G until much later, with 2020 being our best bet for a 5G iPhone. That’s because Apple will likely wait for 5G coverage to expand. That’s precisely what Apple did when 4G arrived in early 2011. It waited until September, the following year, to launch an iPhone that supported LTE speeds.
For months we’ve heard that Intel was working closely with Apple on a 5G chip, just as the Apple vs. Qualcomm legal battles intensified. It looked like Apple wanted to source iPhone 5G chips from anyone but Qualcomm, and since Intel provides a portion of the LTE chips in the last two iPhone versions, the giant chipmaker seemed like the obvious choice.
But Apple has decided not to go forward with Intel 5G modems, according to internal communications seen by Calcalist. Not only would Intel not provide 5G modems for 2020 iPhones, but the company has halted the development on the Sunny Peak 5G chip, with team members now redirected to other projects. The chip also integrates Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, aside from 4G.
Intel described Apple as the “key mobile customer” for the developed 5G model, and Apple was expected to be the “main volume driver” for the chip. The execs also stated in those leaked communications that Apple is facing “a massive effort” to launch 5G in their mobile products, and they speculated that Apple’s decision not to use Intel parts was a result of “many factors.”
Interestingly, the execs said that the introduction of the speedy WiGig (802.11ad Wi-Fi) standard “into any mobile product brings new and unanticipated challenges.”
Intel hasn’t given up hope, and it wants to improve Sunny Peak modems for the 2022 iPhones, the report said. It’s unclear what any of this means.
Naturally, we don’t expect any confirmation from either company on this rumor. But if true, it’s bad news for Intel. The company may have to wait a few more years until smartphone vendors start taking its mobile chips seriously. It might get even worse for Intel, as Apple and Qualcomm will have a new generation of mobile processors that will power Macs and Windows devices in the following years.
Who will make the 5G modem inside the iPhone? Qualcomm is one of the usual suspects. But a report a few days ago said that MediaTek is looking to win Apple orders for 5G modems.