Apple is said to be planning to use Intel’s 8161 modem chip in the 2020 iPhone lineup, with Intel set to be the sole provider of 5G chips for Apple devices. The upcoming 8161 chip will be fabricated using Intel’s 10-nanometer process.
Right now, Intel is said to be testing a precursor to the 8161, the 8060, which will be used for prototyping the 5G iPhone.
Fast Company‘s source says that Apple has “been unhappy” with Intel as of late because of Intel’s failure to solve heat dissipation and battery life issues with the 8060 modem chip that’s in the works.
Many wireless carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., will initially rely on millimeter-wave spectrum (between 30 gigahertz and 300 Ghz) to connect the first 5G phones. But millimeter-wave signal requires some heavy lifting from the modem chips, our source explains. This causes the release of higher-than-normal levels of thermal energy inside the phone-so much so that the heat can be felt on the outside of the phone.
Despite its displeasure with Intel, Apple has not considered reopening conversations with Qualcomm about supplying 5G modems for the 2020 iPhone models. The company has, however, held conversations with modem chip maker MediaTek as a Plan B if Intel can’t work out its modem problems over the course of the next year and a half.
With its legal dispute with Qualcomm escalating, Apple has been relying on Intel chips for its devices. The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR all use Intel modem chips, with Apple having transitioned away from Qualcomm entirely for its flagship iPhone lineup.
Rumors late last year suggested Intel and Apple were already working on 5G chip technology for future iPhone devices. Intel is said to have thousands of people working on 5G tech to catch up with Qualcomm and win Apple’s 5G modem contract.
The first 5G smartphones are expected to start debuting early in 2019, with the first to be Android devices using Qualcomm 5G chips. 5G technology is expected to deliver speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than the average 4G connection, at a gigabit per second or higher, along with lower latency and other benefits.
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