Apple has admitted in court that, when it transitioned to 4G connectivity with the iPhone 5, Qualcomm was the only company capable of providing the chips Apple needed.
The admission of Qualcomm’s technical superiority over rivals came from Matthias Sauer, Apple’s director of cellular systems architecture. Sauer said that Apple considered working with Ericsson, Broadcom and Intel — but that none could deliver the chip specifications that Apple wanted.
The revelation is potentially significant in Apple’s legal battles against Qualcomm. Apple and others have tried to argue that Qualcomm has acted as a bully by abusing its marketplace dominance through illegal exclusionary practices.
Qualcomm, on the other hand, claims that its technology is the reason its customers became dependent on it. Apple’s admission seems to offer up a bit of evidence to support Qualcomm’s case.
Qualcomm vs. Apple
Qualcomm and Apple have been battling one another since early 2017. The two big issues in the case are Apple’s decision to withhold $7 billion in royalties it supposedly owes Qualcomm. Qualcomm has also claimed that Apple has stolen its proprietary trade secrets and passed them on to Intel.
Recently, Apple revealed that it wanted to use Qualcomm’s LTE modems in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR this year. However, Qualcomm allegedly refused to sell Apple the chips as a result of their legal dispute.
Some sources in the supply chain have suggested that Apple and Qualcomm will ultimately wind up patching up their relationship so that Apple can use Qualcomm’s 5G tech. The first 5G phones will start shipping this year, but iPhone users will probably have to wait until 2020 to get a 5G Apple handset.
Whether it uses Qualcomm’s technology remains to be seen. Judging by this latest admission, however, Qualcomm has a clear lead when it comes to this area.