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Self-developed 5G modem iPhone is expected to be thinner, more energy-efficient but not cheap

via:网易科技     time:2019/5/18 13:43:36     readed:331


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Figure: Apple's latest A-series chips include Apple's CPU and GPU cores, but there is no cellular modem inside.

In view of this, Apple ultimately decided to settle a two-year global lawsuit against Qualcomm, the 5G chip maker, and almost all other 5G device manufacturers are using Qualcomm components. However, although Apple will use high-tech chips in the foreseeable future, it is also developing its own 5G modem, with the earliest release date likely to be 2025.

Developing a 5G modem by oneself has many advantages, but it's not cheap.

Apple's reasons are not as simple as they seem. Admittedly, Apple is reluctant to buy chips from Qualcomm, but it won't save much money by developing its own 5G modem. Modem research and development and talent recruitment alone will make it pay a lot of money, and continue to pay patent licensing fees to Qualcomm, Nokia and all other companies that contribute to mobile technology, which will make the cost even higher. In other words, 2025IPhoneThe price will not drop suddenly because of the Apple modem.

To some extent, this can be explained by the fact that Apple likes to control the history of key elements of its products. The company has developed the metals, processors and even fonts used on the screen of its devices. But in many cases, Apple can impose this control by working with existing companies, such as requiring them to develop glass or screen technology that Apple needs, rather than assuming full design or manufacturing responsibility.

Figure: Even for the world's best chipmaker, it's not easy to integrate a 5G modem directly into a CPU/GPU system on a chip.

The difference from the screen is that, ideally, the modem can be combined with other components within the device to achieve the goal of reducing size and power consumption. Apple's A-Series processor can accommodate CPU, GPU and modem without requiring two or three chips, which means it can release more internal space for batteries, cameras, hinges or other components. In addition, energy-efficient companies like Apple can optimize every detail of the modem with the end of the CPU, without having to design a modem from scratch to include customization functions and omit unnecessary functions.

However, achieving these goals can be very difficult, especially with the addition of 5G and sophisticated chip manufacturing. In addition to the challenge of actually building a good 5G modem, Apple needs to keep it close to the CPU and GPU cores, free from signal interference. The company also hopes to build modems by 2025, regardless of the chip manufacturing process (perhaps 2.5 nanometers) used for CPU and GPU cores. At this miniaturization level, the size and power consumption of Apple's first generation 5G chips may be only 25% of the similar chips released next year.

The Apple Chip Manufacturing Team was very impressed. The 12X bionic chips on laptops released last year showed that Apple was ready to challenge Intel and Qualcomm chips in terms of original CPU and GPU performance. In addition, it took 10 years to build the iphone, enabling Apple to compress its processors into new products like Apple Watch, while leaving room for other companies'modems. But by 2025, Apple's 5G modem will not only support thinner iPhones or Apple Watch, chip footprint reduction and integration improvements will allow integrated processors to be loaded into AR glasses and other devices without significantly increasing their weight or size.

That's Apple's ultimate goal in modem engineering: to make smaller, lighter mobile devices that people can carry or wear more comfortably anywhere. Ideally, Apple wants to achieve this goal by itself, but it won't try it on its own. Qualcomm has built directly a 4G modem in its latest Miaolong chips, with all key chip manufacturers (including Samsung, Samsung and Samsung).HUAWEICompetitors) are committed to fully integrated 5G system chip solutions. Based on the information available, all these companies are likely to succeed before Apple releases its first 5G modem in any form.

Apple seems to have a long way to go before it launches its own modem in 2025. But there is reason to believe that it will take years of development to catch up with current suppliers, let alone replace them. Qualcomm and other companies will be in the early stages of prototyping 6G technology by 2025, but Apple's investment in 5G is expected to make it an inventor and developer, not just a customer.

Apple and Intel: Executives on both sides had a big fight

Earlier, Silicon Valley's leading technology media The Information released in-depth reports detailing Apple's resentment with chip maker Intel over the past few years, which led to Apple's final settlement with Chase.

The report points out that the 5G modem dispute between Apple and Intel dates back two years. According to anonymous sources, (Johnny Srouji), Apple's vice president of hardware, was very disappointed with Intel's research and development progress because the latter began developing modems for Apple in 2017. In early 2017, Apple is preparing for the new iPhone, which was launched in 2018, but Intel's modems for the devices, codenamed 7560, are not working properly.

These newMobile phoneIt will mark the first time that Apple has relied entirely on Intel's modem, rather than its long-term supplier Qualcomm's similar products. Intel has made four major improvements to the modem, bringing it up to the level of the latest high-pass modem. But people familiar with the situation said that Apple executives were very anxious about Intel's missed deadlines and the frequency of chip technology problems.

"under my leadership, Apple will never happen to Apple," people familiar with the matter said, shouting at Intel's head of Intel, Vincaran Dutara, at Apple's meeting. "under my leadership, Apple will never happen this way," people familiar with the matter said.

These new details show that tensions between Apple and Intel have been brewing for a long time. Jim McGregor (Jim McGregor), chief analyst and partner at Tirias Research, a market research firm, said of Intel's dispute with Apple over modems: "it's like a long and painful breakup."

Shortly after Apple announced a settlement with Qualcomm to allow Qualcomm to provide 5G modems for its future iPhone, Intel announced that it would withdraw from the business, at least not to develop 5G modems for smartphones. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had considered buying Intel's 5G modem business, but ultimately failed because Apple and Chase had reached a settlement. Although Intel didn't specifically comment on Apple's intentions, it said that many companies were interested in its business.

An Intel spokesman declined to comment on Intel's relationship with Apple, but confirmed that other companies had approached him for the Intel modem business. "We have world-class 5G modem technology and very few companies have relevant intellectual property rights and expertise to provide such technology," the spokesman said in a statement. For this reason, since we recently announced that we are evaluating our options to realize the value we create, many companies have expressed interest in acquiring our mobile modem assets.

Why does Apple make its own chips? Not restricted to others

For Apple, Intel's troubles are a reminder of why it has long sought to reduce its dependence on outside companies to acquire key components inside its devices. In fact, the multi-year modem agreement between Apple and Qualcomm may be temporary, as Apple's huge internal team is developing its own modems. But Apple's internal efforts seem far from what some chip experts predicted. During the recruitment process, Apple told the engineers that they hoped to have their own modems by 2025, according to people familiar with the matter.

The problem between Apple and Intel is not limited to the modem. The Information report, which also pointed out that Tim Cook (Tim Cook), Apple's chief executive, stressed in the company's recent earnings call. Restrictions on Intel chips have hampered sales of Mac computers.

"Apple's relationship with Intel also seems to be strained in other ways," The Information wrote. In Apple's second-quarter results released last month, Cook blamed weak Mac sales on limited supply of processed chips. Intel is the only supplier of processing chips for Mac computers. Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs), Apple's late former chief executive, announced in 2005 that Apple would switch to Intel chips because of the disappointing performance of the PowerPC chips developed by Motorola and IBM. "

Apple is expected to switch its Mac processor to Intel in a relatively short time. Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known Apple analyst, predicts that Apple will take this step between 2020 and 2021. Bloomberg also believes that Apple's transformation will begin next year.

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