Apple has long used its own A-series of chips to power its iOS devices but has relied on Qualcomm for the modem on the iPhone. A new report from Nikkei Asia claims that Apple is partnering with chipmaker TSMC to make its in-house designed iPhone modem.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is well-known for making chips for many different companies, and they’re currently partnering with Sony on a new chip manufacturing plant in Taiwan. The 5G modem TSMC is working on was designed by Apple and being manufactured by the company. Currently, all of the components for modems in iPhones are made by Qualcomm.
Apple plans to adopt TSMC’s 4-nanometer chip production technology to mass produce its first in-house 5G modem chip, four people familiar with the matter said, adding that the iPhone maker is developing its own radio frequency and millimeter wave components to complement the modem. Apple is also working on its own power management chip specifically for the modem, two people briefed on the matter said.
Modem chips are crucial components that determine call quality and data transmission speeds. The segment has long been dominated by Qualcomm, which built a large patent wall around the technology, as well as Taiwan’s MediaTek and China’s Huawei Technologies. Intel, which supplied modem chips to Apple alongside Qualcomm since 2016, dropped out of smartphone modem chip development and sold the business to Apple in 2019.
Apple and Qualcomm have not had the most friendly of relationships over the years, and this move shows Apple wants to get past its reliance on anything made by Qualcomm. Apple has worked with TSMC on its A-series iPhone chips and its latest M1 chips, so it makes sense they would tap them for this newest project. It will be interesting to see how this project works out and if Apple is successful with it.