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Apple’s 5G puzzle


In the current development of the smartphone industry, 5G is becoming a key word. Especially in 2019, major manufacturers have begun to take the initiative to welcome 5G commercial launches. Samsung, Huawei and other smart phone manufacturers have launched new 5G smartphones, while Xiaomi and OPPO have also announced the launch of 5G products in 2019.

Of course, in this 5G wave, there is an exception player that Apple can’t ignore.

Apple's 5G puzzle

Apple seems to be caught in a 5G puzzle

At least from the current dynamics, Apple’s arrival of 5G does not seem as enthusiastic as other vendors.

While various mobile phone manufacturers are busy exposing 5G progress and using the 5G muscles of the stage show such as MWC, Apple is still inactive and silent. Of course, the industry also understands; after all, in 2017 Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg: Apple will invest based on long-term plans, and will not eager to compete for the first.

Apple's 5G puzzle

In November 2018, FastCompany quoted the so-called insider as saying that Apple’s first 5G version of the iPhone will be available in 2020, when it will use the 5G baseband produced by Intel. Subsequently, in early December 2018, Bloomberg also reported that Apple will not support the 519 iPhone for the 2019 iPhone; this report corroborates the claims cited by FastCompany.

Although this statement has not been officially confirmed by Apple, its impact is indeed very large, and even seems to become the industry consensus – people have set the launch time of the 5G version of the iPhone as 2020.

However, from the current situation, 2020 may not be the time for Apple to launch the 5G version of the iPhone.

So far, vendors that have publicly released 5G baseband chips include Qualcomm, Huawei, Samsung, Intel and MediaTek. On the surface, Apple has a lot of choices about which 5G baseband to use, but from the current situation, this is not the case. A series of dynamics has already caused Apple to fall into the 5G puzzle.

Samsung: Refusing Apple due to insufficient capacity

On April 2, according to Taiwan’s “Electronic Times” report, it is rumored that Apple intends to purchase 5G baseband chips from Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics, but both sides have encountered hits. Samsung’s reason is insufficient capacity.

It is worth mentioning that after the release of this report, Samsung has begun to sell the Samsung S10 5G mobile phone supporting the 5G mobile network to the Korean market. This mobile phone is equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos Modem 5100 baseband chip. The chip is based on Samsung’s own 10nm LPP process technology and supports the sub-6GHz and millimeter wave bands in 3GPP’s new 5G NR air interface. It is also backward compatible with 2G/3G/4G LTE (see Lei Feng previously reported ). – In short, this is a full Netcom chip.

Apple's 5G puzzle

It can be said that with this phone, Samsung has also led Apple in 5G.

Intel: Close cooperation with Apple, but not a big deal

Originally, with the current cooperation, Intel, as the exclusive supplier of Apple’s latest generation of iPhone baseband chips, should have great advantages and possibilities in winning the 5G version of the iPhone; however, it seems that Intel is not very strong in the 5G baseband.

On April 3, Timothy Arcuri, a well-known Apple analyst from UBS (UBS Group), released a report saying that according to his “field investigation” results, Apple may not be able to launch the 5G version of the iPhone in 2020, because Intel may not be able to ” Prepare a chip that is backward compatible with the 5G baseband.” At the same time, he also believes that the status of the iPhone may be “already in a position to be replaced.”

Apple's 5G puzzle

At the same time, Timothy Arcuri also predicted that Intel may sell its baseband business in the future, and the buyer may be Apple.

More details come from the FastCompany. In a report on April 3, FastCompany said that because Intel’s XMM8160 5G chip has missed the deadline set by Apple; because if Apple wants to launch the 5G version of the iPhone in September 2020, it should be this summer. Get the sample and get a finished baseband chip early in 2020 – but FastCompany quoted people familiar with the matter as saying that Apple has lost confidence in Intel’s delivery of 5G chips.

Despite this, Intel also officially responded that, as stated in November 2018, Intel will use the XMM 8160 5G baseband to support the release of customer products in the second half of 2020.

Qualcomm: expressed willingness to support Apple

As the leader in 5G baseband chips, Qualcomm has the ability to provide 5G baseband chips for Apple. For many years, Qualcomm has been the baseband chip supplier for Apple’s iPhone; however, in recent years, two patent and contract litigation battles have caused Qualcomm to completely lose Apple’s orders on the new iPhone in 2018.

However, Qualcomm is not the door to Apple’s closure of the 5G baseband.

On April 4th, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said in an interview with foreign media AXIOS: “We are still in San Diego. They (Apple) have our phone number. If they call us, we will support them.”

Apple's 5G puzzle

Cristiano Amon also said that he can’t really comment on what Apple is doing, but the longer any company waits on a 5G device, the higher the standard. The implication is that I hope that Apple will reach a cooperation with Qualcomm soon. In Lei Feng’s opinion, I have to admit that despite confronting Apple in court, Qualcomm is still very generous in striving for Apple to become its 5G customer. In line with its business strategy.

However, despite Qualcomm’s position, the launch of the 5G version of the iPhone in 2020 is still not easy with the two sides still not ending.

Another way for Apple to go to 5G

In addition to the above three, Huawei and MediaTek are less likely to cooperate with Apple.

Huawei’s Baron 5000 baseband chips are self-produced and self-selling products. MediaTek did launch the 5G baseband Helio M70, but both the UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri’s report description and the FastCompany quoted insiders reported that:

MediaTek is unlikely to provide Apple with 5G reception chips by 2020 in terms of technology and product strategy.

Of course, relying on its own powerful strength, Apple has another way: self-developed baseband. According to a report from a reference source quoted by FastCompany, Apple currently has a team of 1,000 to 1,200 people to develop baseband chips for future iPhones. These engineers work in San Diego (the city where Qualcomm headquarters is located), mainly from Qualcomm or Intel. Dig, the team leader is Johny Srouji, senior vice president of Apple.

Apple's 5G puzzle

However, according to FastCompany, even if there is money and strength, Apple will be able to launch the self-developed 5G baseband in 2021.

Poorva Virmani
As Global Chief Creative Officer at TechGrits, Poorva helps team ambition to burnish the media's creativity product and reputation.

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