Apple's purchase of Intel's 5G smartphone modem business in 2019 may start to pay dividends by 2023, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a report from MacRumors. Apple's first iPhones using its own custom-designed 5G chips will appear in 2023 "at the earliest," he wrote. If that proves accurate, Apple will rely on Qualcomm to supply its modems for at least a couple more generations of iPhones.
"We predict that the iPhone will adopt Apple's own design 5G baseband chips in 2023 at the earliest," the report states. "As Android sales in the high-end 5G phone market are sluggish, Qualcomm will be forced to compete for more orders in the low-end market to compensate for Apple's order loss."
The new rumor lines up with a recent Barclays report that claimed Apple's custom 5G modems would appear in 2023 iPhones, as MacRumors notes. Given the challenges that Apple and Intel had implementing a 5G modem, it's not surprising that it's taking Apple some time to develop its own chips.
Apple currently uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 modem in current iPhone 12 models and is expected to use the X60 and X65 modems in the 2021 and 2022 models. Once the company switches to its own modems, it may reduce supply constraints (and thus prices) on 5G modems, making the technology more feasible for low-end smartphones, according to Kuo.