Intel is reportedly working on making the next-gen LTE modem for Apple’s next iPhone, and the team the chip maker has directed toward integrating its 7360 LTE modem chip into the next iPhone could be as big as 1,000 people, says a report from VentureBeat.
An essential but complex deal
Such efforts from Intel clearly suggest that the chip maker is aiming to potentially oust Qualcomm and make its 9X45 LTE chip the go-to modem for Apple handsets. VentureBeat believes that Apple has not yet signed Intel as a supplier, but the deal could take place in the future– provided the chip maker continues to hit its project milestones.
During a recent earnings call, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the company will start shipping its 7360 modem by the end of the year, and new products based on those chips will begin showing up next year. This project is very important for Intel’s future in the mobile market, but it is very complex as well. Apple is a demanding client with an extremely popular phone, and this could be the reason Intel has deployed a small army of people to work on the Apple chips.
Win-win for both Apple and Intel
VentureBeat says the end goal is to make an Apple-made system-on-a-chip or SOC very similar to the Ax chip found in existing iPhones. These chips will have the capability to hold the processor and the LTE modem on a single component that is small, fast and power-efficient, all at the same time. The report says that Apple may acquire the license for Intel’s technology and design the SOC in line with its Ax series of chips.
For the iPhone 6S’ A9 chip, Apple has relied on Samsung and chip maker TSMC, while for connectivity, it has been purchasing Qualcomm’s mobile LTE modems. Intel seemingly has superior fabrication methods, and by partnering with it, Apple will get an opportunity to bring more of its chip design and manufacturing in-house. This way, it will be able to cut off other companies with which it was forced to work with until now.
Supporting the argument, VentureBeat points to a number of new high-profile hires in the last two years by Apple from Infineon, which is owned by Intel. Infineon, a semiconductor company based in Germany, used to supply the iPhone with 3G modems. Intel acquired it in 2011, and since then, Apple has contracted with Qualcomm.