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In blow to Qualcomm, future iPhone models may use chips from Intel and MediaTek

December 26th, 2017 at 6:16 PM
iPhone Modem

Apple’s legal battle with Qualcomm is seemingly getting crazier with each passing week. With billions of dollars in royalties on the line, Apple is reportedly interested in dropping Qualcomm as a supply partner altogether. Meanwhile, Qualcomm has not only accused Apple of sharing its proprietary code with Intel, but has also brought motions in front of the ITC as part of an effort to prevent Apple from importing iPhones into the United States. More recently, a judge slapped Apple with a fine for withholding documents it was required to hand over to Qualcomm.

While it’s possible that the two tech giants will ultimately reach a settlement of some sort — though both companies have shown no inclination to even budge an inch thus far — a more interesting question is how the lawsuit might impact how Apple sources components for future iPhone models. Indeed, there have been rumblings that Apple is exploring the possibility of designing iOS devices that incorporate Intel chips as opposed to those from Qualcomm.

Bolstering this rumor is a new report via Digitimes which relays that Apple may tap MediaTek as a modem supplier for upcoming iPhone models. With Apple hoping to use Intel to fulfill 50% of its modem orders, the Cupertino-based company is also hoping MediaTek will be able to step up to the plate.

The sources said the Apple’s switching 50% of its orders for iPhone modem chipsets to Intel from Qualcomm is part of its self-protection efforts made after filing a lawsuit in January 2017 against Qualcomm’s allegedly unfair patent royalty calculation formula involving modem chipsets used in iPhone devices.

As the legal battle rages on, Apple is reportedly actively seeking new chip suppliers to absorb more of the remaining orders. And MediaTek, with its technology, capacity and pricing advantages, is a candidate to becoming a supplier modem chips for Apple in 2018, the sources continued.

As a quick refresher, Apple’s suit with Qualcomm first got off the ground earlier this year, with Apple maintaining that Qualcomm is trying to enjoy royalty payments it doesn’t deserve.

Addressing the matter during an earnings conference call this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained:

The reason that we’re pursuing this is that Qualcomm’s trying to charge Apple a percentage of the total iPhone value. And they do some really great work around standards-essential patents, but it’s one small part of what an iPhone is. It’s not – it has nothing do with the display or the Touch ID or a gazillion other innovations that Apple has done. And so we don’t think that’s right, and so we’re taking a principled stand on it. And we strongly believe we’re in the right, and I’m sure they believe that they are. And that’s what courts are for.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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