While Apple is doing great with processors for iPhones and Macs, it clearly has problems with 5G modems. Initially, the company assumed that by the end of 2024 or early 2025 it would have its own radio modems. Thus, Apple would be independent from another supplier: Qualcomm.
However, the work is progressing slower than expected. So Apple had to extend the contract with Qualcomm. Snapdragon 5G modems will also be present in Apple devices in 2026. According to Bloomberg’s analysis, this means that Apple’s modems certainly won’t be ready before the end of 2025, or maybe even early 2026. Probably in three years, some iPhones will have Apple modems, and some will have Snapdragon modems.
The reasons behind these actions are unknown as everything is happening behind closed doors in Cupertino. The Wall Street Journal claims that Apple misjudged how complex the task of building its own cellular modem was and gave itself too little time. Perhaps the company’s management felt too confident after the successes achieved in the field of SoCs for smartphones. The acquisition of Intel’s 5G chip division in 2019 certainly gave Apple additional confidence in its own strength.
Hundreds of communications specifications used around the world brought the people of Cupertino back to Earth. Every now and then there are new ideas that need to be tracked and implemented. In addition, Apple engineers have to tiptoe around Qualcomm’s patents. Breaching them would have disastrous consequences.