Qualcomm dropped a small inside-baseball bomb at Mobile World Congress on Wednesday: It doesn’t plan to supply Apple with modems for its 2024 iPhones. This is consistent with an analyst prediction from earlier in the week that Apple intends to use its own in-house modems starting next year in the iPhone SE 4, its next affordable handset.
“We are not planning for 2024, my planning thought is that we are not giving [Apple] a modem in ’24, but it’s their decision to make,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon told CNBC at MWC in Barcelona.
Apple may change its mind about using Qualcomm chips, but this intel suggests the tech giant is moving closer to a long-awaited goal of using its own hardware to connect iPhones to mobile networks and satellites. Qualcomm’s comments put the ball in Apple’s court.
At the beginning of the year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the company had canceled the fourth generation of its iPhone SE line. But now he thinks the phone is back on the road and may use the first of Apple’s internally developed modems, or 5G baseband chips, Kuo tweeted a long string of predictions.
Rumors have swirled for years that Apple wants to build its own baseband chips, which handle the iPhone’s antenna functions. Back in 2021, Kuo predicted that Apple could stop using Qualcomm’s silicon in favor of its own baseband chips for at least two years, though that effort appears to have stalled as Apple struggles to make its own connections to hardware.
Kuo’s latest prediction suggests that Apple may have solved at least some of its issues with developing an in-house baseband chip, although he noted that it will only support sub-6 5G, the midband set of 5G frequencies used by most carriers around the world. their 5G network.
But because it is not yet clear whether Apple’s baseband chips will support the higher-speed millimeter-wave flavor of 5G or satellite communications for the Emergency SOS feature, Kuo doesn’t know if the first flagship iPhones to use the chips — the iPhone 16 series coming in 2024 — will have them.
If Apple starts making baseband 5G chips for the iPhone SE 4 in the first half of 2024, then the chips could come to the iPad and Apple Watch next, Kuo said. That means fewer orders for Qualcomm connectivity chips.
Besides the new silicon, the iPhone SE 4 may pack an OLED display instead of an LCD screen, six years after the first flagship iPhone switched to an OLED display with the iPhone X in 2017.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.