For years, Huawei has been developing its own high-powered processors and modems, all to power its big portfolio of mobile devices. And so far, the company has almost completely refused to sell any of those to its competitors. We've learned, however, that the company might be softening that stance. A source with knowledge of the situation has confirmed to Engadget that Huawei is now "open" to selling its 5G Balong 5000 chipsets, but only to one company: Apple.
Such a deal would be unusual, to say the least. Chip sales aren't exactly Huawei's forte, and a company representative said earlier this year in China that Huawei "Balong is mainly for supporting Huawei's smart products, such as phones and IoT products, and is currently for Huawei's internal use only."
For Huawei — a company that's gunning to become the world's largest smartphone maker in 2020 — offering 5G as an olive branch to one of its biggest rivals is surprising. At this point, though, it's unclear whether the companies have engaged in any conversations — neither Huawei nor Apple has responded to requests for comment at time of publication.
Huawei's surprising change of heart only really matters because Apple appears to be in a tough spot with its sole modem supplier, Intel. The chipmaker provides the wireless modems that go into all iPhones and iPads, and it said late last year that its 5G-ready XMM 8160 modems would be available for its customers in the second half of 2019.
A recent report from Fast Company, however, cites an anonymous source who claims that Apple has "lost confidence" in Intel after the chipmaker failed to meet certain development deadlines. (When asked for comment, an Intel spokesperson simply said the company "plans to support customer-device launches in 2020 with its XMM 8160 5G multimode modem.")
That sentiment was echoed in a research note written by UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri last week — based on "field work," Arcuri said UBS does not "believe [Intel] will be ready with a single chip backward compatible 5G modem" and that Apple was "increasingly in jeopardy of being unable to ship a 5G iPhone in 2020."