After months of rumors, Intel is reportedly close to finding a buyer for its phone modem division... and it won't surprise you to hear who the candidate is. Wall Street Journal tipsters claim Apple is in "advanced talks" to buy the modem chip outfit, with the reportedly $1 billion-plus deal possibly ready within the next week. The companies had been discussing a sale since summer 2018, according to the sources, but had been on-and-off until sometime after Apple reached its truce with Qualcomm, leading Intel to halt its 5G work.
We've asked both Apple and Intel for comment.
There have been not-so-subtle hints this might happen. Apple poached Intel's 5G leader weeks before the Qualcomm deal, for one thing. It has also signaled more than once that it wants to develop its own cellular chipsets between job listings and a decision to add jobs in Qualcomm's backyard. The company wants all the wireless resources it can get, and it's willing to go to great lengths to get them.
An Intel acquisition wouldn't necessarily herald the return of Intel-style modems to Apple devices. Like with the acquisition of PA Semiconductor, this would be more about snapping up talent than anything. Any wireless chipsets coming out of an acquisition could take years to complete. Whatever complaints you have about signal quality on iPhones with Intel modems aren't likely to apply here.