A Friday report from Fast Company claims we won’t see Apple launch its first 5G iPhone until 2020. Apple will use a chip from Intel to enable 5G, despite the two firms’ less-than- comfortable relationship.
Apple plans to use Intel’s 8161 5G modem chip in its 2020 phones. Intel hopes to fabricate the 8161 using its 10-nanometer process, which increases transistor density for more speed and efficiency. If everything goes as planned, Intel will be the sole provider of iPhone modems.
Intel has been working on a precursor to the 8161 called the 8060, which will be used for prototyping and testing the 5G iPhone.
The publication says Apple has “been unhappy” with Intel in recent months, as Intel has failed to solve heat dissipation and battery usage issues with the 8060 modem.
Many wireless carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., will initially rely on millimeter-wave spectrum (between 28 gigahertz and 39 Ghz) to connect the first 5G phones. But millimeter-wave signal requires some heavy lifting from the modem chips and RF chains, 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.
The problem also affects battery life. Heat generated by a device component is always converted from electricity stored in the battery.
Apple may be displeased with Intel, but the Cupertino firm has not considered Qualcomm as a supplier for 5G modems for 2020. However, it is said to be considering modem chip maker MediaTek as a backup plan if Intel continues to have issues with its modem chips.
Apple has been relying on Intel for the modem chips for its current iPhone lineup, due to ongoing legal issues with Qualcomm. Apple currently uses Intel modems in its iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max handsets.
Intel reportedly has thousands of workers toiling away on the 5G tech, hoping to win Apple’s 5G modem contract.
5G technology is expected to offer connection speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than that delivered by the average 4G connection. The first 5G smartphones, which are expected to be Android handsets using Qualcomm chips, are expected to begin appearing in early 2019.