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Apple isn’t very good at hiding its 5G modem development plan

Published May 1st, 2018 3:36PM EDT
iPhone 5G Chip
Image: Shutterstock

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We’ve been talking about the next chapter in wireless communications for years, but we’re finally there. 5G will be unleashed onto the world later this year, and everyone’s excited. Maybe too excited.

That doesn’t mean we’ll see too many 5G-ready smartphones hit stores in 2018, and Apple is surely not adding 5G to the three iPhones it’ll launch this fall. That’s probably reserved for next year, if not even later. The iPhone maker, however, was just caught trying to hide the fact that it’s seemingly developing its own 5G modems for the iPhone.

Apple’s feud with Qualcomm is far from over, and Apple is already rumored to give Intel the lion’s share of this year’s 4G modems. But in future iPhone versions, an Apple-made wireless chip may sit inside the handset, thus reducing Apple’s reliance on both Qualcomm and Intel.

Apple briefly hosted a job listing on its site for an engineer that would lead a team working on 5G modems. Per Cult of Mac, that listing was swiftly removed. Why would Apple delist it soon after it had caught the eye of the media?

The job posting did not mention “5G” specifically, although it did feature terms like “millimeter-wave” technology as well as “multi-gigabit wireless chips. These are clear hints that Apple is looking for engineers for a 5G modem, rather than 4G. Millimeter-wave tech is used in 5G communication, and only 5G devices will be able to support multi-gigabit speeds.

As a millimeter-wave IC design engineer, you will be responsible for providing circuit and system solutions for multi-gigabit wireless chips.

The job posting also hinted that the chips would be used in “functional products” for “hundreds of millions of customers.” The iPhone is the only Apple product that sells at such scale.

Apple is also rumored to ditch Intel’s Core chips for Macs in 2020 and use its own designs in laptops and desktop. It makes sense to assume that, in Apple’s quest to control every major component that goes inside the iPhone and Mac, the 5G chip is also a top priority.

Finally, Business Insider says that Apple has been testing millimeter technology in California since at least May 2017, after receiving an experimental license. Again, millimeter-wave tech can only be linked to 5G development.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.