We already know Apple’s thoroughly leaked iPhone 11 has little to excite users because the company’s big focus is on its radically redesigned 2020 models. And now Apple itself just cranked up the excitement level.
In an official statement, Apple has today confirmed a $1BN deal to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business and this will change iPhones dramatically. How do we know? While Apple has dropped hints, Intel was good enough to already tell us everything we needed to know.
As reported by Reuters in February, Intel’s head of networking (and now executive vice president), Sandra Rivera told the media at a Palo Alto event that the company’s 5G modem chips would start shipping to customers this year with “products in the market” in 2020. Now that sole customer is Apple and the company is being unusually candid about what this means.
Speaking about the deal, Apple Senior VP of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji emphasised the alignment with already exists between the two companies and stated it will “help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward.”
Yes, Apple now owns 5G smartphone modems which will be ready in 2020 allowing Apple to ‘expedite development on future products’. Moreover, Apple’s in-house chip development is outstanding. It only takes one look at the company’s class-leading A Series chipsets, which consistently outperform Qualcomm’s Snapdragons in both performance and efficiency, to see where this may lead.
And Apple is playing this smart. In April, it signed a modem deal with Qualcomm and this relieves the pressure on Apple to supply the tens of millions of 5G modems required for its 2020 iPhones out the gate. If troubles arise, Qualcomm can handle the demand. If not, Apple can split the supply between Qualcomm and itself (for years iPhone modems were a Qualcomm/Intel mix) before easing its rival out in future generations.
Meanwhile, Apple’s deal gives the company its favourite thing: autonomy. The same autonomy it craved from Intel and Qualcomm when it made the A-Series chipset and from Google when it created Apple Maps. Conversely, Android rivals are now more reliant on Qualcomm than ever. That’s why Qualcomm is likely to be cheering the Apple/Intel deal: Android phones are now largely at the mercy of one supplier.
So yes, Apple’s 2019 iPhone 11 range may look dull and there’s little to get excited about other than its controversial new camera system. But Apple has the long game in mind and the arrival of its own 5G modems in 2020, combined with a wholly new iPhone design, radical display tech and the potential return of Touch ID set up a blockbuster return to form.
Well played, Apple. Well played.
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