Apple is planning to produce its own 5G modems for all future iPhones in partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Nikkei Asia reported. The move, if successful, would bring down the Cupertino-based company’s reliance on Qualcomm.
The iPhone maker plans to move into mass production in 2023, the report said.
Apple is using TSMC’s 5-nanometre chip production technology to design and test produce its new 5G iPhone modem. It will then move to using the more-advanced 4-nanometre technology when it moves into mass production.
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To complement the modem, Apple is also developing its own radio frequency and millimeter wave components. It is also specifically designing a power management chip for the modem.
Apple has long been trying to reduce its dependence on Qualcomm and gain more control over semiconductor components. In 2019, the two companies settled a long-running legal tussle over patent royalties. The chipmaker reportedly received over $4 billion as part of its settlement.
Qualcomm is also readying itself for a lower clout with Apple and recently announced that its share of modem orders for the iPhone would drop to 20% in 2023. It, however, remains the dominant industry player and produces modem components for the iPhone 13 series.
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Apple bought the 5G modem division from Intel in 2019 in a sign of its eventual switch. Apart from saving the fees it pays to Qualcomm, developing its own modem will help Apple integrate TSMC’s chip with its in-house processor, Nikkei Asia sources said. This will not only give Apple more control over hardware integration but also boost chip efficiency.
At present, TSMC manufactures all iPhone A-series processors and the M1 systems-on-chip for the Mac computers. Nikkei Asia reported that hundreds of TSMC engineers were based in Cupertino to work with Apple’s in-house chip development team.