Qualcomm predicts strong 5G smartphone demand into 2021, hinting at Apple’s iPhone plans

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qualcomm.modem.chip
Qualcomm expects to sell a lot of modem chipsets for 5G mobiles - like the iPhone - in the next year.
Photo: Qualcomm

Chipmaker Qualcomm said Wednesday it expects the smartphone industry to ship 30% fewer mobile phones in the second quarter as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but predicted the demand for 5G smartphones will accelerate from the second half of 2020 into the new year.

As a provider of modem chips to Apple, the predictions give further evidence that the Cupertino-based high-tech giant is on track to release it’s first 5G-ready iPhone lineup later this year simply based on Qualcomm’s estimates of product demand.

Qualcomm’s new cellular modems could finally take 5G mainstream

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Qualcomm headquarters
This could be the modem which appears in the 2020 iPhone.
Photo: Qualcomm

Qualcomm has announced its new Snapdragon X60 5G modem, its third-gen 5G chip which offers improvements over its Snapdragon X55 and X50 predecessors.

While there is no confirmation that this is the case, this could very well be the modem chip that is used in the forthcoming generation of 5G iPhones. Apple patched up its rocky relationship with Qualcomm last year over the company’s 5G technology.

Apple wants to ditch Qualcomm’s 5G antenna on 2020 iPhones

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Qualcomm headquarters
Sounds like Qualcomm and Apple still have a love-hate relationship.
Photo: Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s 5G antenna design isn’t up to par with Apple’s design standards, reveals a new report that claims Apple is building its own antenna for this year’s 5G iPhones.

Fast Company claims Apple has decided to do the design work itself on the 5G antenna but it will still use Qualcomm’s 5G modem chip. If true, Apple would be adding an extra level of difficulty for churning out a reliable 5G iPhone during one of its most anticipated upgrade cycles in years.

Apple might snap up Broadcom’s RF chip business

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Broadcom
Broadcom has been supplying Apple with chips for years.
Photo: Florian Knodt/Flickr

Apple might be in the market to acquire the radio-frequency chip division from one of its biggest parts suppliers.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Broadcom Inc is working with Credit Suisse to find a possible buyer of its RF wireless-chip unit in an effort to diversify its business and move more toward software. Although the names of companies potentially interested in the division haven’t been named, Apple observers are quickly pointing out that the iPhone-maker scooping it up makes the most sense.

Qualcomm may have just hinted that 5G iPhones are coming in 2020

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2020 could be Apple's greatest year so far
Coming soon to a pocket near you. Hopefully.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf predicts 175 million to 225 million 5G handsets will be sold in 2020. The company is also expecting new flagship devices with its 5G chips to be made available for sale next fall.

While that’s far from a guarantee, the comments provide more (possible) clues that 2020 could be when we get the first 5G iPhones.

Apple aims to deploy its own 5G modem in iPhones by 2022

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2020 could be Apple's greatest year so far
Source says that this is an extremely aggressive timeline.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple reportedly plans to deploy its own 5G modems in iPhones by 2022. This “very aggressive” timeline will require Apple to carry out development, testing and certification.

Until then, Apple will use 5G modems developed by Qualcomm. After years of legal battling, the two companies put aside their differences earlier this year. Apple will likely ship its first 5G iPhone next year.

iPhone 11 uses Intel’s last 4G modem

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intel
The days when iPhones use Intel modems are almost over, but not yet.
Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

The end of the Apple’s war with Qualcomm didn’t come soon enough for this chip maker to get its 4G modems into the 2019 iPhone models. All three of Apple’s new handsets use a modem designed before Intel got out of this business.

Which possibly means this phone isn’t as fast as it could be.