Bye Bye, Qualcomm: Apple Will Use Intel Baseband For Future iPhone Models Instead


The Apple and Qualcomm feud continues. According to respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will soon rely on Intel exclusively for iPhone baseband components, which could land a sharp blow to Qualcomm's business.

The reason? Intel meets Apple's technical requirements and offers more competitive prices, according to the analyst.

Apple Might Be Ditching Qualcomm For Intel

Since the iPhone 7, Apple has split its baseband orders for iPhone from both Qualcomm and Intel. A baseband is a processor inside phones that manages all its radio functions, or all functions that require an antenna. Qualcomm baseband components will be excluded from 2018 iPhone altogether, according to Kuo.

It's also possible Intel is not quite ready to support high-speed 5G networks, or at least not as ready as Qualcomm, which could give Apple no choice but to opt for Qualcomm baseband components. 5G is definitely the next innovation in mobile network tech, and to be on the top of its game, Apple must introduce phones that support it. As of now, there's no certainty whether Intel can supply Apple such chips.

Intel's baseband does support dual SIM and dual standby. However, there's no certainty that Apple will release an iPhone model that supports two SIM cards, since it has never done so in the history of its flagships.

The Apple And Qualcomm Feud

Apple and Qualcomm are both currently embroiled in a messy legal battle over anti-competitive licensing practices. In January 2017, Apple sued the chipmaker for allegedly overcharging chips, seeking $1 billion in damages. Apple alleges that the company used tactics so as to maintain a monopoly over key components inside mobile phones.

Qualcomm is a major supplier to both Apple and Samsung — as a well as a handful of other manufacturers — for modem chips that connect phones to wireless networks. Just those two companies accounted for 40 percent of Qualcomm's $23.5 billion revenue during its 2016 fiscal year.

Apple could very well turn exclusively to Intel for such chips given the severity of the situation, but Kuo notes that exclusivity can't be determined at this point, considering Apple typically prefers diversity in the supply chain. There's also chance Apple could still ask Qualcomm for components, perhaps as concessions in the patent lawsuit settlement.

But there's also the matter of speed. In previous benchmarks, iPhone with Qualcomm baseband components performed slightly better than ones with Intel inside. Whether Apple thinks the difference is negligible enough for it to go full speed ahead with Intel is unclear.

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