Apple’s custom 5G modem might make 2023 iPhone faster than ever

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An Apple 5G modem might look like this
An Apple 5G modem is allegedly in development, and could be in iPhones in a few years.
Artists concept: Cult of Mac

Apple’s move away from Qualcomm modems could begin in 2023. Analysts predict that all the iPhone models released in that year will use 5G modems Apple designed itself.

This is another example of Apple developing critical components for its products in-house rather than depending on an outside company.

Analysts with Barclays made the prediction on Thursday in a note to investors seen by MacRumors. They think the chips could be manufactured by Broadcom and Qorvo.

Apple expected to dump Qualcomm

This isn’t the first report that Apple plans to break off its relationship with Qualcomm. Most obviously, Apple spent $1 billion to acquire Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019.

But the iPhone-maker and Qualcomm also fought a years-long legal battle over royalty payments for 4G modems. Apple eventually threw in the towel and paid up billions in a settlement. That’s how last year’s iPhone 12 uses an X55 Qualcomm 5G modem.

But that obviously isn’t the end of the matter. Reports that Apple plans to make its own modems have been around since at least 2017.

Advantages and drawbacks of Apple 5G modem

Apple has designed the processors in every iPhone going back to 2007. And last year it began moving the Mac line away from Intel chips in favor of ones designed by Apple. So the company has plenty of experience in chip design.

But making its own 5G modems is a proposition not without risk. Even with the technology and expertise it gained with the Intel modem acquisition. Apple used to get 4G modems from both Qualcomm and Broadcomm, but eventually dropped the second company because the Qualcomm chips were so much better. It won‘t be easy for Apple to match that quality with its in-house 5G modem.

But people said the same sort of thing before the recent switch from Intel processors to the M-series. And  Apple’s own chips actually brought a significant performance increase. Plus, an in-house modem could be “tuned” to perform best with the iPhone-maker’s own CPUs.