Apple has been attempting to break away from Qualcomm for years by developing its computer components. However, one component still binds Apple to Qualcomm, and it is a significant player in the mobile industry: modems. While Apple’s iPhones employ the business’s System-on-Chips (or “Chips”), the company still uses Qualcomm modems in its phones, but that could change in 2023 owing to a new partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
For 5G modems, Apple is looking to TSMC.
Apple has been rumoured to be moving away from Qualcomm and developing its modems for months. When Apple is ready to make the switch, we don’t know how to create those modems. According to Nikkei Asia, Apple has worked with TSMC to create these new 5G modems, which are expected to debut in iPhones in 2023.
Nikkei Asia obtained this information from four unidentified insiders familiar with Apple’s plans, who claim that Apple will begin designing modems using TSMC’s 5nm technology before transitioning to the foundry’s 4nm process for mass production. The plan appears to combine these 5G modems (which will contain radio frequency and millimetre wave modules) with its mobile processors, resulting in a mobile SoC made entirely of in-house parts.
We’ll have to wait for more official word from Apple or TSMC, as neither has issued an on-the-record public remark on this report. TSMC is an obvious choice for a manufacturing partner if Apple wants to create in-house 5G modems for its phones, given that it already produces a significant fraction of the world’s CPUs each year.
Apple, and perhaps even customers, will benefit.
The advantages of using TSMC for in-house modem manufacture are rather apparent for Apple. First, if it develops a modem of its design, it will no longer have to pay Qualcomm fees for the modems it creates. When you sell as many phones as Apple does, those fees might add up to a large sum of money that Apple will most likely want back.
As Nikkei Asia points out in its storey today, the second significant benefit is that Apple may have better control over hardware integration because it manufactures more components in-house. As a result, Apple may be able to boost efficiency without needing to raise costs.
Increased hardware efficiency can be beneficial to buyers if Apple does not use it to justify raising pricing on its already high-priced goods. We’ll wait for formal confirmation until then, but if stories of Apple’s collaboration with TSMC are accurate, we should see in-house 5G modems in Apple’s 2023 iPhones.