2018 iPhone won’t be as fast as it could be

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Apple Watch
Rather than Qualcomm LTE modems, the 2018 iPhone will use chips from other suppliers that aren't as fast.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The Apple vs. Qualcomm battle just escalated to the point where the next iPhones won’t include LTE modems produced by this chipmaker. That means these iOS devices will be slower accessing the Internet.

Apple certainly has other options for LTE chips. But none are as good as Qualcomm’s products.

The bad news came this afternoon. “We believe Apple intends to solely use our competitor’s modems rather than our modems in its next iPhone release,” said Qualcomm CFO George Davis during a conference call with investors, according to CNET.

This apparently leaves Intel as Apple’s sole supplier of LTE models. That’s not good news for iPhone users. Intel and Qualcomm currently produce modems for the 2017 iPhone versions, and Intel’s are decidedly slower. Qualcomm’s have to be downclocked so that devices with them don’t have noticeably faster Internet access. 

Apple is also considering adding MediaTek as a supplier of LTE and 5G modems for future iPhone versions, according to a recent unconfirmed report. The iPhone maker prefers to source components from multiple companies, as that keeps one supplier from ratcheting up its prices. 

No more Apple/Qualcomm coopetition

The iPhone X and other iOS devices use wireless modems made by Qualcomm, even as the two companies are locked in a years-long patent dispute over billions of dollars. But that phase of the war is over, if Davis is correct.

That certainly doesn’t mean the end to battles in court, though. Qualcomm insists that Apple’s devices infringe on some very elementary patents, including ones for touchscreens and PDAs that also function as phones. In other words, the company says it has a patent on the entire concept of a smartphone. Qualcomm wants as much as $4.5 billion in licensing payments for using these patents.

The wrangling will go on. But at least Apple is no longer funding the company that’s suing it.