Apple Accepts Failure in Custom 5G Modem Development Project: Report

Apple gives up custom 5g modem
In Short
  • The latest report citing supply chain sources says Apple is giving up on in-house 5G modem efforts.
  • Internally known as the project "Sinope," Apple has been carrying it out since 2019.
  • Apple's failure means that Qualcomm will continue to supply 5G modems for iPhones.

It is no secret that Apple aims to gain tighter control over its devices by including custom-made components. However, it seems that the tech pinnacle has hit a snag towards its aim. It has been reported that Apple is finally abandoning the plans of developing custom 5G modems after failing at it for some time now.

A report by “yeux1122” in Naver’s blog, citing supply chain sources, says that Apple is planning to discontinue the development efforts and investment it has put so far into developing an in-house 5G modem, which was expected to feature in the upcoming iPhone SE 4. This ends the possibility that we will ever see an Apple-made 5G modem in iPhones.

Just last week, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman mentioned that Apple is set to miss its 2025 deadline to replace Qualcomm chips with its in-house 5G modems as the project has been delayed again.

Apple’s incessant efforts for custom 5G modem

Apple has been working on cracking the 5G modem code since 2019. It even bought Intel’s modem business for a whopping $1 billion in 2019 to avoid working from scratch. Codenamed “Sinope” internally, the project was expected to bore fruits by 2023 and Apple was expected to launch the iPhone SE 4 in 2024 with the custom 5G modem.

Modem chips involve complex circuitry and coding. While one can argue that Apple has beaten Intel at its own game by developing custom M-series chips for Macs, 5G modems are a different ball game. Qualcomm has perfected the technology after decades of research and development efforts.

Even after chipping in billions of dollars, Apple has seemingly failed to develop its own modem. The major reason behind Apple’s failure to match Qualcomm’s modem technology is believed to be the code for the modem that was borrowed by Intel. Apple engineers have reportedly been unable to integrate modern functionalities into the code, leading to an early prototype that was believed to be years behind what Qualcomm currently offers in its modems.

Moreover, Apple is also known to approach the development with caution to avoid infringing patents of Qualcomm. Apple has been walking a tightrope after suing Qualcomm in 2017 for collecting unjustified royalties on modem chips.

Apple Cashing in on its ‘Chips’

The failure of Apple is Qualcomm’s treasure. While Apple and Qualcomm recently signed an extension to the agreement for offering 5G modems until 2026, the deal was penned believing that Apple would be able to succeed in developing the in-house modem. With the recent report, it seems that Qualcomm is emerging out to be the winner and we could see a long-term partnership between the two tech companies.

On Apple’s part, it would be a behemoth task to accept the failure, not to mention the billion-dollar investment it has poured in over the years to develop an in-house modem. Previously, Apple had to give up on its plans for AirPower, the wireless charging mat, after being unable to find a solution for overheating in a similar fashion.

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