With New ARM Partnership, Intel May Come To iPhone 8

Ever thought you’d see Intel chips inside Apple devices? Well, what at one point might have seemed impossible might be coming true in the near future, as Intel and competitor ARM have now unexpectedly joined forces and could power the iPhone 8.

Intel has generally been thought to have lost the race in the smartphone processing race, as it never seemed to compete with the likes of ARM and its partners such as MediaTek and Qualcomm, despite its technology lead in the manufacturing of smart chips. Things look set to change now, however, as Intel has decided to take the cooperative route. The company is now planning to build chips for others and is opening up its world-class and arguably best-in-the-business factories where other companies can now build their own processors.

Intel opening up its doors to competitors; iPhone 8 to be powered by Intel

Intel, the world’s biggest microprocessor company, has just announced a new licensing agreement with competitor ARM to produce ARM-based chips in Intel factories. The deal, announced Tuesday, August 16, at the Intel Developer Forum, is a strategic move from Intel to offer up its massive custom chip manufacturing facilities, which include 10-nanometer production lines, to third parties, including those using its rival’s technology. For example, the new licensing agreements include deals to produce chips for LG, Spreadrum, and Netronome.

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Intel announced its decision to allow companies like Apple that build ARM processors as follows:

Our 10 nanometer design platform for foundry customers will now offer access to ARM Artisan physical IP, including POP IP, based on the most advanced ARM cores and Cortex series processors. Optimizing this technology for Intel’s 10 nm process means that foundry customers can take advantage of the IP to achieve best-in-class PPA (power, performance, area) for power-efficient, high performance implementations of their designs for mobile, IoT and other consumer applications.

This move brings with it massive implications for the processing market. It is now a possibility that Intel chips will be inside the iPhone 8 or the iPad, although not in the traditional “Intel Inside” manner. Since Intel has decided to move away from the smartphone market, we cannot expect to see Intel’s Atom processor in the iPhone. We could, however see the Apple A11 processor ship in the phone, as it is a processor designed by Apple but manufactured by Intel.

Intel-Apple partnership in the future?

It is a large possibility that Apple could consider Intel as a future supplier for chip manufacturing for a couple of reasons. First, Apple likes to maintain a very diverse supply-chain, thus avoiding becoming dependent on a single supplier. Second, commissioning both iOS and Mac device chips from Intel would give them additional bargaining power for both product lines.

“Apple likes diversification in case there is a supply issue,” says Counterpoint Research director Neil Shah. “Apple can also use it as leverage to bargain Intel chip pricing for its Macs and so forth.”

Some analysts thing that Intel will plan on targeting Apple’s A-series processor line, although they do note that the company would have to work hard to find the right pricing, as Apple has been known in the past to drive hard bargains.

“We believe these updates were modest positives and estimate the key customer win that could really move the needle would be a foundry win at Apple,” says UBS analyst Stephen Chin. “Another uncertainty is how aggressive could Intel be with its foundry pricing to win new customers.”

Overall, Intel opening up its factories is great news for smartphone and tablet aficionados. It will help companies like Apple create smartphone processors than run smoother, faster, and more efficiently. Given the technology Intel has, the smartphone industry could be expecting a jump in the near future.