Apple could debut its own in-house 5G modems in 2023

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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 transition from using Qualcomm modems to its own 5G designs could roll out as soon as the next couple of years, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests, in a research note seen by Cult of Mac.

In a Monday note, Kuo predicts “the iPhone will adopt Apple’s own design 5G baseband chips in 2023 at the earliest.”

“As Android sales in the high-end 5G phone market are sluggish, Qualcomm will be forced to compete for more orders in the low-end market to compensate for Apple’s order loss. When the supply constraints improve, MediaTek and Qualcomm will have less bargaining power over brands, resulting in significantly higher competitive pressure in the mid-to low- end market.”

Apple’s in-house modem journey

Apple began designing its own mobile chips since 2007. Last year, it shifted to also designing its own Mac chips with Apple Silicon. However, to date, Cupertino always contracted out the job of making its modem chips. Rumors that this could change date back to 2017.

Apple notably had a falling out with Qualcomm over royalty payments starting that year. The two companies ultimately squashed the beef in 2019. The deal saw the two agree to work together for the foreseeable future. But Apple clearly did not ditch its plans for building its own modems. The company spent $1 billion to acquire Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the 2023 date for Apple to start making its own modems. A March 2021 report from Barclays analysts made similar claims. They suggested the Apple-designed chips could be manufactured by Broadcom and Qorvo.

Still, the fact that Kuo is echoing these reports certainly adds some weight. Kuo has long been one of the more reliable Apple analysts. According to AppleTrack, his accuracy record stands at 76.6%, based on 158 rumors.