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Apple’s 5G Modem Chip is Three Years Behind Qualcomm’s Chip, Says WSJ

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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The Wall Street Journal’s latest market report has revealed that Apple’s 5G modem chip is three years behind Qualcomm’s best chip. In the last few years, Apple has been reportedly spending billions of dollars trying to develop its modem chip to replace the Qualcomm modem chips it uses in iPhones.

However, according to a new paywalled report by the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s approach to the project has been plagued by unattainable goals, a poor understanding of the challenges involved, and completely useless prototypes.

“These delays indicate Apple didn’t anticipate the complexity of the effort,” said Serge Willenegger, a former longtime Qualcomm executive who spoke to WSJ. “Cellular is a monster.” Underlining the significance of Apple’s setback, the company last week extended its agreement to obtain modems from Qualcomm for three more years.

Journey of Apple’s 5G Modem Chips

To create its internal modem, Apple hired thousands of engineers: Apple bought the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019, and when it hired Intel experts and others from Qualcomm to work on the project, corporate leaders set a target date for the modem chip’s release: autumn 2023.

Apple’s 5G modem chip project was given the codename Sinope in honor of the mythological Greek nymph who outwitted Zeus. However, the report stated that it soon became apparent to many of the wireless experts on the project that meeting the goal was impossible.

According to former corporate engineers and officials familiar with the project who talked to the WSJ, the challenges in finalizing the chip were “largely of Apple’s own making.” Technical difficulties, poor communication, and disagreements among managers on the idea of attempting to create the chips rather than purchase them caused teams working on the project to “slow down.”

The firm believed it could produce Apple’s 5G modem chips due to its capacity to create its microprocessors for iPhones and iPads. However, because they must adhere to rigid connection standards to service wireless carriers all over the world, such chips transmit and receive wireless data from various types of wireless networks, making them a far more difficult task.

After Apple tested its prototypes late last year, executives better understood the problem. According to persons involved with the tests who spoke to WSJ, the outcomes were so dismal that the chips were “basically three years behind Qualcomm’s best modem chip” and that adopting them could have resulted in the iPhone’s wireless speeds being slower than its rivals.



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