Apple extends license for Qualcomm 5G modem, still has problems in internal development
February 3, 2024

Apple extends license for Qualcomm 5G modem, still has problems in internal development

This decision comes after a previous license extension lasted until 2026, given the technical challenges Apple had to overcome in developing its internal 5G modem. During the meeting for its first financial report in 2024, Qualcomm said that Apple is extending the patent license for its 5G modem until 2027. This decision suggests that Apple is still facing some challenges in designing its own model, which was first announced two years ago, reports Mac Rumors.

The CEO of Qualcomm, Christiano Amon, confirmed this news during an interview with CNBC, where he stated that he is “very satisfied with the relationship with Apple and will continue to supply 5G modems”. However, Apple has not yet officially commented on this news.

In the past year, Apple has already delayed its internal 5G modem development twice, first to late 2025 and then to 2026. The company originally planned to introduce this chip in the iPhone SE phone during the spring of 2025, but failed to meet the given deadlines. These delays are the result of technical challenges that include slower performance, overheating, and the size of the chip, which takes up a significant amount of space inside the iPhone.

Although Apple has long-term plans for 6G chips, it’s clear that the company still wants to develop a competitive 5G modem to reduce its dependence on third-party vendors. This whole endeavor looks more like an “arms race” for the mobile SoC modem, where Qualcomm is the dominant supplier.

Apple is extending the license even though it launched its project back in 2018.

Apple’s modem project was launched by Tim Cook in 2018, in order to reduce dependence on external suppliers. That would bring savings, as Apple paid more than $7.2 billion to Qualcomm in 2022.

That’s when Apple began hiring engineers for the Sinope project, after encountering challenges of slow performance, overheating, and chip size. In September 2023, the company decided to postpone its plans and extend the contract with Qualcomm once again.

Designing your own chip is extremely complicated, even for Apple, which has an excellent design team and infrastructure. However, with such ambitious plans, Apple is not the first in the mobile phone industry.

Samsung has been making its own mobile SoC since 2010, and recently launched the Galaxy S24 series of phones, whose S24 and S24 Plus models use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip for the variants sold in the US and Canada, while the rest of the world has a variant with Samsung Exynos 2400 chipset.