Analyst Believes Apple is Unlikely to Utilize Custom iPhone Baseband Chip Until 2015
If Apple does bring baseband process design and production in-house, one analyst believes that the chips are unlikely to debut in new iPhone models before 2015 due to their “notoriously difficult” nature of development.
In a recent note to investors, JP Morgan analyst Rod Hall pointed to silicon firm Broadcom’s recent struggle to produce an LTE modem of its own as evidence of the uphill battle awaiting Apple. Broadcom is one of the companies that Apple has hired away a number of baseband hardware and software engineers in recent months.
Apple’s choice to produce its own wireless modems would likely be motivated in part by a desire for increased power efficiency according to Hall. The current logic board designs utilize a baseband chip that is separate from the company’s A-series application processors and the company may be looking for ways to integrate the two chips into a single package. Qualcomm, which is Apple’s current baseband vendor, has done just that with its Snapdragon processors and Hall believes that the company would likely be open to a licensing arrangement that would allow Apple to integrate Qualcomm baseband IP on A-series cores.
Such an arrangement would be beneficial to Qualcomm as Apple is believed to have accounted for approximately one quarter of Qualcomm’s 2012 revenues and losing that business would represent a significant financial hardship. Despite the challenges, Hall believes that Apple has the ability and internal know-how to attract the talent necessary to successfully develop its own modern technology, as evidenced by the success of the A-series processors. Apple is thought to be at least one year ahead of Qualcomm on that front thanks to the “desktop class” A7 chip that powers the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display.
Source: JP Morgan