Apple has prolonged its contractual agreement with Qualcomm to secure modems for its devices until 2026. This move implies a delay in the Cupertino-based tech giant’s development of its custom 5G modem, according to a Bloomberg report. The extension encompasses smartphone releases slated for 2024, 2025, and 2026, according to Qualcomm’s statement. The initial contract was due to terminate this year, with rumors suggesting that the iPhone 15 series could be the last to depend on Qualcomm’s modem technology.
The renewal signifies that Apple’s endeavor to create its custom 5G modem has been more protracted than originally anticipated. The company’s interest in developing its own modems traces back to 2018, further solidified by the acquisition of the bulk of Intel’s smartphone modem unit in 2019. Despite previous expectations pointing towards a 2023 or 2024 launch window for the custom modem, Bloomberg suggests that an even more extended period may be needed for its completion.
Although the renewed Qualcomm contract lasts until 2026, Apple still retains the option to incorporate its proprietary modems in new models prior to that date. Indicatively, Qualcomm anticipates maintaining a 20% share in iPhone modem supplies by the time the 2026 iPhone iteration is released. This suggests that Apple’s transition to its own modems would be gradual, with Qualcomm modems still present in a segment of iPhones.
Apple’s ambition for its custom 5G modem is to emulate its success with Apple silicon, focusing on battery life and performance improvements.
However, progress has reportedly been bogged down by challenges, including battery life optimization and regulatory certification procedures.