Apple's 5G modems reportedly coming in 2023, won't be part of A-series SoC

5g Iphone
5g Iphone (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple will reportedly debut its own 5G modems, ditching Qualcomm, in 2023.
  • Apple isn't expected to bolt the 5G modem onto the A-series chips.

Apple is expected to ship iPhones with its own 5G modem inside as of 2023, according to a new report. What's more, that same report suggests that Apple doesn't plan to put the 5G modem inside the A-series chip that will power much of the rest of the device.

The report comes via DigiTimes, with the outlet saying that itst sources believe that next year will be the last that Qualcomm's modems will be found inside an iPhone. After that, from 2023 onwards, iPhones will use a new 5G modem designed in-house by Apple.

If Apple follows the now-traditional naming convention we expect the 2023 iPhone to be powered by an A17 chip, but don't expect that to house the new 5G modem, according to the report. Instead, Apple is thought to have chip builder TSMC standing by to produce custom 5G modems for future iPhones.

Qualcomm recently said that it expects to supply 20% of Apple's modems in 2023, although that seems likely to represent the low-end iPhones and likely at least some iPads. That would also mean that the remaining 80% would consist of Apple-designed modems, likely reserved for new iPhones and likely any new iPad Pro models.

Apple firmly believes that in order to make the best iPhone possible, it needs to be able to design as many of its components as it can. It's been doing that with its SoC for years now — and the buyout of Intel's modem business confirmed that Qualcomm's days were numbered years ago.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • Not putting it in the SoC is not a surprise to me honestly. Integrating it into the SoC for the sake of doing it is not always the best solution.
  • Not sure why, but I fully expect Apple's 5G modem to out perform Qualcomm's. Maybe because of the Intel, Qualcomm, M1 thing.
  • Except that Apple's M1 never outperformed Intel. It didn't outperform the 11th gen Core i9 at all and it was at best a wash between the fastest 11th gen Intel Core i7 depending on the task. Yes, the M1 Macs beat the Intel Macs, but the Intel CPUs in those were 2-3 years old. And that is 11th gen. Intel's 12th gen outperforms the M1, M1 Max and M1 Pro. Granted those are desktop chips, but the latest benchmarks have the main 12th gen Intel Core i7 laptop chip outperforming the M1 Max. This is before optimization and it isn't even the Intel Core i9. Also, the 13th gen Intel chips come out in 2022 around the same time that Apple's M2 chip will debut for the Mac Mini Pro, iMac Pro and Mac Pro. The turnaround will be so fast because Intel actually had the 12th gen design ready awhile ago but it was impossible to implement on a 14nm chip for size and power reasons. So 13th gen will come out in 2022 as the third generation on their 10nm node. Then in 2023, 14th gen will debut on their 7nm node. The whole "Apple beat Intel" was more hype than reality. "Apple equals Intel" would have been more accurate, and now with the 12th gen even that isn't true anymore. As for Qualcomm, they haven't been competing with Apple using their own core design. They have been competing with Apple using customized versions of ARM Holdings' core design. There is a limit of what you can do with someone else's IP, but due to licensing issues ARM Holdings' IP is all they are allowed to use to make CPUs. Or at least it WAS all they were allowed to use ... in 2023 they will release new CPUs (for laptops, not phones) using IP that they acquired from the former Apple engineers that created the Nuvia CPU startup. But for modem tech, that is actually Qualcomm-developed IP. There is no basis for believing that Apple will outperform it. But since no one really needs gigabit ethernet type speeds on a phone anyway - and people are going to generally be inside relying on their Wi Fi signal and not their mobile signal most of the time - this will not matter. It is similar to Google using a clearly slower Samsung modem for the Pixel 6 instead of a Qualcomm one ... it is slower than Qualcomm's 5G modem but it is still faster than 4G so no one cares.
  • Intel was never outperformed by M1? You’re actually seriously making that long argument just to be that wrong?
    First off, M1 outperforms them all, by a lot, computational power per watt.
    Second off, Intel themselves stated Scalder Lake would be “competitive with Apple” for laptops. Consider that, The chip you are basing your erroneous argument on has marketing that give no specifics other than “competitive”.
    Third off, I can line up the tech channel testing, numerously, of the M MacBooks testing against Intel windows laptops to prove you are wrong, full stop, period, extra full stop. And you’ll love the part where they unplug them so they are on battery then run the tests again. You can watch the M series beat them even worse. And I do mean line them up one after the other tech channels.
    You may want to watch Dave2D too as he’s going over the latest Intel in his desktop tower — as he struggles to add new cooling capacity because of the massive heat.
    You like your Intel, that’s your choice. But you’re, ahem, stretching the truth to a higher degree than Alder Lake gets degrees after being turned on.
    So yea Intel, no doubt if you add a blast chiller to it can obtain very good speed.
  • Despite, ahem, claims that M1 can’t beat Intel — said specifically to invalidate your belief and expectation that the Apple Modem will be faster — you are on terra firma believing that. IPhones using Apple Silicon A series outright beat the competition and do it likely with lower specs. The A series is computational winner (lucky for Apple Intel doesn’t make ARM SOCs else the A series would never win). Now look at the raging smash hit computational power of the M series on Apple Silicon. Apple has clearly shown they can build a chip that can be industry best by designing it to run the specific tasks required, nothing more. So There’s very good reason to believe a highly specific to Apple 5g chip will beat the off the shelf QC model. Ultimately this s Very likely to be yet another rousing win for Apple Silicon and solidify Apple as among the best semiconductor design companies on the planet. .