Apple is currently running behind on the 5G game. We are already expecting a number of Android devices to launch with 5G support sometime this year, but Apple isn’t expected to release a 5G iPhone till 2020.
But here is the thing: even the 2020 iPhone may not have 5G support.
Apple’s supplier of the 5G modem, Intel, is reportedly struggling to get the modem designed in time. According to a report from Fast Company, Intel has reportedly missed a number of deadlines for the development of its XMM 8160 5G modem, causing Apple to question the company’s reliability.
Apple expects Intel to deliver sample parts of the 5G modem by the start of summer of this year, with a finished modem design by early 2020. And with Intel already introducing three different managers for the project, things are going to be tricky. Fast Company notes that Apple’s deal with Intel doesn’t come with a lot of profit for the chip maker, and Intel has reportedly been conflicted over Apple’s business internally.
If Intel isn’t able to ship the modems in time for Apple to add it into the 2020 iPhones, we may not see a 5G iPhone till 2021. The company says it is still committed to shipping its 5G modem in 2020, however.
Apple really doesn’t want to rely on Intel or anyone else, however. Especially with the ongoing conflicts with Qualcomm, the company is looking into designing its own modems for future iPhones. It has reportedly hired up to 2000 engineers, including engineers from both Intel and Qualcomm, to work on its own modems. The new team will reportedly design Apple’s own modems, and it could then use Samsung to actually make the modems. That still won’t be ready in time for the 2020 iPhones, however.
Interestingly, Fast Company says “it would make the most business sense” for Apple to go back to Qualcomm for the 5G modems. And that probably is not possible because of the company’s legal battle against Qualcomm.
So until its own modems are ready, Apple is going to have to rely on Intel. And whether Intel will have its 5G modem ready in time for the 2020 iPhone remains a big mystery. If Apple is unable to get a 5G iPhone out in time, the company could really fall behind considering the fact that some 5G phones are already launching this year.