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Intel explains why it exited the 5G smartphone market

Published Apr 26th, 2019 7:06PM EDT
Image: Lukassek

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The sheer amount of corporate drama surrounding the impending 5G boom has been nothing short of bizarre. From AT&T’s misleading 5G E icon — which prompted a lawsuit from Sprint — to Qualcomm and Apple’s recently settled patent dispute, 5G seemingly has mobile carriers, component suppliers, and handset manufacturers all trying to eek out any type of advantage in the marketplace they can.

One of the more interesting things to result from all of this was Intel’s announcement a few weeks back indicating their intention to exit the 5G smartphone market altogether. The move was somewhat surprising given that Apple was supposedly going to rely on Intel to supply 5G modems for its 2020 iPhone lineup. Of course, the dynamic quickly shifted once word of Apple and Qualcomm’s settlement broke.

Shortly after the settlement announcement was made, Intel issued a statement indicating that it will focus its 5G efforts on PCs and internet-connected devices.

Intel’s statement naturally begged the question: Did Apple’s settlement with Qualcomm prompt Intel to exit the 5G business or was Apple prompted to settle with Qualcomm over performance issues with Intel’s 5G modems?

Well, as it turns out, a report from Bloomberg recently revealed that Apple opted to settle with Qualcomm after determining that its 5G modems weren’t up to snuff. There were also rumblings that Intel alone couldn’t manufacture 5G modems at the scale demanded by Apple.

Commenting on the matter, Intel CEO Bob Swan recently shed a bit more light on the company’s plan to exit the 5G market. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Swan essentially said that with Apple and Qualcomm now buddying up, there simply wasn’t a whole lot of money for Intel in the 5G smartphone market.

“In light of the announcement of Apple and Qualcomm,” Swan explained, “we assessed the prospects for us to make money while delivering this technology for smartphones and concluded at the time that we just didn’t see a path.”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.