Apple patches things up with mobile GPU maker Imagination

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Apple patches things up with mobile GPU maker Imagination
Imagination built GPUs for Apple since the iPod before the two companies fell out.
Photo: Apple

UK chip company Imagination Technologies has agreed to a new licensing deal with Apple. The British company designed Apple’s mobile graphics processors for years. However, it fell out with Cupertino three years ago. Apple instead focused on developing its own mobile GPUs in-house.

Recently Imagination launched a new generation of its mobile GPU architecture which it calls the most important upgrade in 15 years. The new multi-year agreement between Apple and Imagination is good news for both companies.

In a statement on Thursday, Imagination said it had agreed: “a new multiyear license agreement under which Apple has access to a wider range of Imagination’s intellectual property in exchange for licensing fees.”

According to the Financial Times, Apple confirmed the agreement. However, it did not share any further details.

Imagination: GPU maker

Apple and Imagination fell out in 2017. That year, Imagination confirmed that Apple was designing its own chips and would drop Imagination’s tech in 15 to 24 months’ time. It also said it was skeptical that Apple would be able to develop its own GPUs without stealing Imagination property.

Apple introduced its first custom GPU as part of the A11 chip in 2018. It also used its own custom GPU in the A-series chip in last year’s iPhone refresh. Imagination claims that its new IMG A-Series GPU is the fastest GPU IP ever released.

Imagination relied heavily on Apple. Around half of the company’s revenue came from Apple. As a result of the fall out with Apple, shares in the company fell 70% in a single day. Chinese private equity firm Canyon Bridge purchased Imagination for around one-quarter of its peak value half a decade earlier.

It’s not clear how soon Apple will start integrating Imagination’s tech back into its products. TSMC is already hard at work on the A-series chip for next year’s iPhone refresh. This will reportedly be made using a breakthrough 5-nanometer process.

Apple and Imagination’s reconciliation isn’t the first time Apple has patched things up with a company it has previously fallen out with. One of the biggest stories of 2019 was Apple’s deal with Qualcomm, related to its 5G modem tech. Previously, Apple and Qualcomm were headed for a vicious court battle.