iPhone: Apple’s first 5G modems to be available from 2023


New information is surfacing regarding Apple’s 5G modem. It could take place in iPhones from 2023 and would be engraved in 4 nm by TSMC, a long-time partner of the American giant.

It’s no secret that Apple has been working on its own 5G chips since acquiring the modem branch of Intel. A major project for the Cupertino company which could take shape in 2023, according to Nikkei Asia. The business daily reports that TSMC was chosen by Apple for the production of its first 5G modems which could be installed in iPhones in 2023. Specialized in the manufacture of electronic chips and Apple’s partner, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company ( TSMC) would thus have the heavy task of supporting the Cupertino company in its long march towards hardware independence. The American giant has been seeking for several years to reduce its dependence on Intel (with M1 chips) and Qualcomm in the mobile sector.

The two firms have a rocky relationship, but Apple’s difficulties in sourcing 5G modems and network chips have overcome the disagreements. To everyone’s surprise, the apple brand and Qualcomm signed an agreement in 2019 and the supplier emerged as the big winner in this showdown. He found a major client and even received a nice check, the amount of which was kept secret, but which was said to be in the order of $ 5 billion to $ 6 billion.

Despite the deal, Apple no longer wants to depend on Qualcomm

By burying the hatchet, Apple has regained some visibility in the competitive 5G market. The priority was not to let the competition get ahead and the success of the iPhone 12 range has confirmed Apple in its choice. However, the American firm did not end its 5G chip project and confirmed at the end of 2020 that a modem was under development. Not expected for a few years – 2025 has regularly been mentioned due to the six-year licensing agreement with Qualcomm – the first 5G modems designed by Apple could therefore see the light of day a little earlier than expected.

This message, visible on the Apple site, could take on a new meaning with the arrival of a modem “made in Cupertino”.

In recent months, many rumors have been agreed around 2022 or 2023. The Ming-Chi Kuo analysis explained as early as May that Apple was going to use its own 5G modems for its iPhones in 2023. Information repeated there is a few days by the DigiTimes site, the latter also relying on the presence of a 5G chip developed by Apple at this time. The Nikkei therefore completes this information by explaining that the firm will use TSMC’s 5 nm engraving process for its tests, but that its modem would then be engraved in 4 nm. He also suggests that the apple modem could take the form of an external component, before being integrated into an SoC. The latter option would improve performance and be more energy efficient. It is also rumored that the American giant is working on its own energy management chip for its modem.

2023, 2024… or 2025?

It remains to be seen whether the modem will actually be integrated into the iPhone from 2023. This trend seems to be emerging, but we must not forget the multi-year contract signed with Qualcomm. Several months after his signing, a paragraph grabbed attention that said the iPhone maker is expected to use Qualcomm’s modems until at least 2024.

“Apple intends to commercially launch new models between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 (the ‘2020 launch’), some of which use the Qualcomm SD X55 chipset. New product models between June 1, 2021 and May 31, 2022 (the “2021 launch”), some of which use the Qualcomm SD X60 chipset, and new models between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2024 (the “launch 2022/23 “), some of which use Qualcomm SD X65 or SD X70 chipsets”, can we read in this document (page 71), spotted by MacRumors.

Apple x Qualcomm, a relationship set to last

This strategy has been confirmed in recent months with the release of the iPhone 12 using the 5G X55 modem, while the iPhone 13 range has the Snapdragon X60 modem. Apple is likely to opt for a smooth transition by continuing to use Qualcomm modems in a few markets, at least during the contract period.

By 2025, the Apple brand could no longer depend on Qualcomm by opting only for its own modems. These competitors Samsung and Huawei – long presented as its main rivals before the fall of Huawei and the emergence of Xiaomi – have already taken this approach and are manufacturing their chips in-house.

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