Split from Qualcomm could leave Apple in 5G dust

The potential ramifications for Apple if it follows through on rumors to scrap Qualcomm components from iPhones and iPads, are that Cook and Co could be left well behind in the race to 5G – leaving the market wide open for Samsung to swoop in.

Qualcomm fell out of favor with Apple some time ago, seeing Intel squeeze in alongside the long-term chipset supplier in iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus handsets, but reports emerged this week that Apple has already manufactured prototype devices which are 100% absent of Qualcomm modems, instead opting for modem chips from Intel and Mediatek, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. It is, of course, a possibility that Apple did this and has no intention of moving away from Qualcomm chips, but leaked the idea just the same.

Qualcomm has been making waves in modem development, recently reaching Gigabit download speeds in a lab environment using its X50 5G modem chipset in combination with its SDR051 TF transceiver chip – a clear sign of Qualcomm’s ambitions to supply multiple parts of the 5G ecosystem. In past eco-system ramp ups, it has been 9 months to 12 months ahead of rivals with early silicon.

The US semiconductor firm is also teaming up with Verizon and Novatel Wireless for trials in 5G, alongside Samsung, Intel, Cisco and Ericsson – a concerning line up of challengers in the market for Apple (with the exception of Intel, which is not a favored supplier).

Apple has until next year to decide on a change of heart, or to resolve its difficulties with Qualcomm, with the new iPhone due out in fall 2018, and sources close to the matter suggesting the Apple’s chip choice is not yet set in stone. Qualcomm said in a statement to Reuters, “We are committed to supporting Apple’s new devices consistent with our support of all others in the industry.”

As well as possibly gifting Samsung some additional market share if Apple decides to plow ahead without Qualcomm and go elsewhere for 5G technologies, Samsung is already set to win big from the new iPhones, as the world’s largest OLED display maker is supplying the screen technology for the new $999 iPhone X. The Super Retina Display panel is reported to be costing Apple around $125 per device, hence the price tag. Like the new Apple TV, the iPhone X supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10, with 2046×1125 resolution – 2K as opposed to 4K, so certainly not the most dense screen out there.

Anonymous sources added that Qualcomm is reportedly holding back software for testing in prototype iPhone and iPad devices. However, like with the ongoing Apple case, Qualcomm has been in quarrels with Samsung, receiving a lawsuit back in May for alleged misconduct in patent practices. Samsung has also developed its own Exynos chips to compete with Qualcomm, although the Korean firm still uses Snapdragon processors in its flagship handsets.