A claimed logic board that recently leaked strongly indicated that Apple’s upcoming ‘iPhone 6s’ and ‘iPhone 6s Plus’ smartphone upgrades will use an improved Qualcomm modem chip, part of its ‘Gobi’ modem platform, with 2x faster LTE download speeds at 300Mbps.
But Apple could be looking to diversify its suppliers two years from now by adding Intel to its supply chain for baseband modems, if sources who spoke with DigiTimes are to be trusted.
While Qualcomm will remain the sole supplier of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus baseband chip, Intel could provide some of the modem chips for 2017 iPhones (likely to be marketed under the ‘iPhone 7s’ moniker).
“The sources believe that Intel is unlikely to obtain modem chip orders for the upcoming iPhones,” reads the report. “However, Intel could win orders for the 2017 iPhone models as Apple is searching for additional modem chip suppliers apart from Qualcomm, the sources noted.”
Northland Capital Markets analyst Gus Richard said recently Intel had won part of the modem business in the upcoming 2015 iPhones. Apple has been considering an Intel modem “for a while,” Richard added. Assuming it lands 50 percent of modem orders for 2016 iPhones, Intel could take home an estimated $750 million to $1.25 billion profit.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted predicted in January 2015 that this year’s iPhone refresh will come with the Qualcomm MDM9635M baseband chip inside.
Qualcomm still in the mix
The DigiTimes story goes on to note that Qualcomm is partnering with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build all of the modem chips for use in the new iPhones.
The new Qualcomm chips are reportedly built using TSMC’s 20-nanometer process.
Interestingly enough, Intel’s current modem chips are built by TSMC, too, using its 28-nanometer process technology. TSMC, the world’s leading independent semiconductor foundry, also churns out Touch ID modules and is said to be making Apple’s next-generation A9 system-on-a-chip along with Samsung.
While DigiTimes’ reports on Apple’s supply chain tend to be rather accurate, it rarely does timeframes right. Besides, Tim Cook cautioned investors against reading too much into Apple’s vast Asian supply chain so take the story with a few pinches of salt.
The new iPhones, iPads and a refreshed Apple TV hardware are thought to be announced at a media event scheduled for Wednesday, September 9.
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus should hit stores and carriers in the first wave of countries on Friday, September 18, or at least that’s what top German wireless carriers appear to be prepping for.