5G is the next big standard for mobile mobile communications. It has been a hot topic for a few years, but it’ll take a while longer until carriers actually upgrade their networks to support fast gigabit speeds. Device makers are also working on components that can handle these next-generation networks, and Apple is of course among them. Now, a new report says that the iPhone maker is already working with Intel, not Qualcomm, on the ultra-fast 5G iPhone X of the future.
Even if it’s just a rumor sourced from “people familiar with the matter,” it’s not surprising given what’s happening right now in the mobile chip universe. Qualcomm is involved in a huge legal brawl with the iPhone maker, and Apple seems to be looking to replace Qualcomm chips with Intel in the near future.
According to Fast Company, Apple and Intel engineers have started the early work on 5G, while Apple’s dialog with Qualcomm “has been limited.”
Intel apparently has a “small army” working on 5G, with “multiple thousands” of engineers engaged in the process. The iPhone is a “must-win” for Intel, which has bigger plans in mind than just replacing Qualcomm on all iPhones. Right now, Apple uses both Qualcomm and Intel modems that allow the iPhone to connect to wireless networks:
All of this seems to point toward the possibility of Apple looking to Intel as the sole provider of 5G modems for the iPhone. The end game, multiple sources have said, is to build the Intel modem onto an integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that would also contain the CPU, GPU, and other iPhone components. The SoC would be co-designed by Intel and Apple and would be fabricated at an Intel facility.
That’s certainly an interesting tidbit. Apple has been designing its own CPU for years, and it now develops its own GPU for the iPhone. The A-series chips are superior to anything available on Android devices, and the A11 Bionic in the iPhone X scores better in benchmarks than some of the Intel chips that power MacBooks. Also, TSMC is the company that’s manufacturing those chips right now, and it’ll continue to make iPhone and iPad silicon for years to come.
Intel, meanwhile, unveiled its 5G modem plans at CES earlier this year, and on Thursday announced that it has “successfully completed a full end-to-end 5G call based on its early 5G silicon … a key milestone in its development.” However, the first 5G iPhone might not launch until 2019 or 2020, the report says. Intel did not comment on this new 5G iPhone rumor, but did say that it’s “making great momentum on our 5G roadmap to accelerate the adoption of 5G.”