WSJ: Apple’s 5G modem prototype ‘three years behind Qualcomm’s best chip’


Over the past few years, Apple has spent billions of dollars attempting to develop its own modem chip to replace the Qualcomm modem chips used in iPhones, but a new paywall wall street journal The report reveals that Apple’s approach to the project was marred by unrealistic goals, poor understanding of the challenges involved, and completely unusable prototypes.

5g modem feature blue
Apple’s plan to design its own in-house modem led to the hiring of thousands of engineers: Apple acquired the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019, and as it acquired work from Intel engineers and Qualcomm With the project’s ranks filled with others hired at , company officials said the goal is to have the modem chip ready by the fall of 2023.

The modem chip project was codenamed Sinope, after the nymph who defeated Zeus in Greek mythology.

However, according to the report, “it soon became clear to many of the project’s wireless experts that the goal was impossible to accomplish.”

According to former company engineers and executives familiar with the project, the obstacles to completing the chip were “largely of Apple’s own making”. WSJ, Teams working on the project were “slowed down by technical challenges, poor communication, and managers divided over the wisdom of designing chips rather than purchasing them.”

From the report:

Apple had planned to produce its modem chip for use in new iPhone models. But tests late last year showed the chip was too slow and prone to overheating. Its circuit board was so large that it could hold half an iPhone, making it unusable.

The teams were split into separate groups across the US and abroad without a global leader. Some managers discouraged the broadcasting of bad news about engineers’ delays or failures, which led to unrealistic goals and missed deadlines.

“Just because Apple makes the best silicon on the planet, it’s ridiculous to think they can also make a modem,” said Jaideep Ranade, Apple’s former wireless director, who left the company in 2018, the year the project began. Was.

Apple’s ability to design its own microprocessors for iPhones and iPads reportedly led the company to think it could make modem chips. However, such chips transmit and receive wireless data from a variety of wireless networks, and must adhere to strict connectivity standards to serve wireless carriers around the world, making this a significantly more challenging undertaking.

Executives reportedly understood the challenge better after Apple tested its prototype late last year. Speaking to people familiar with the trial, they said the results were not good WSJ, The chip was very slow and prone to overheating, while its circuit board was large enough to hold half an iPhone, making it unusable. The chips were “essentially three years behind Qualcomm’s best modem chip,” and their use risked making iPhone wireless speeds slower than those of its competitors.

Apple was forced to settle its lawsuit with Qualcomm and has since used Qualcomm 5G modem chips for its latest iPhone and iPad lineup. As things stand, according to the report’s sources, 2025 could be the earliest that technology will finally be advanced enough for Apple to phase out Qualcomm.

“These delays indicate that Apple did not anticipate the complexity of the effort,” said Serge Villeneger, a former Qualcomm executive who spoke to WSJ, “Cellular is a monster.” Underscoring the significance of Apple’s blow, the company last week extended its agreement to source modems from Qualcomm for three more years.

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