Apple Designing 5G iPhone Antenna Module In-House After Being Dissatisfied With Qualcomm's Version

Michael Scrip

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Mar 4, 2011
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Does 4G and 5G use the same antenna(s) ?

I ask because if I got a 2020 iPhone later this year... I'll probably be on 4G almost all of the time.

In other words... I hope Apple doesn't solely focus on 5G performance... and cut corners on 4G performance.
 
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Analog Kid

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Mar 4, 2003
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That Fast Company article sounds like a lot of words spun out of a one sentence rumor ("Apple is experimenting with their own antenna").

First, how does one say Apple doesn't have a good track record of designing antennas when the only counter example is the iPhone 4 and "another one"? With all the antennas in Apple products, I'd say they're doing pretty well if only one got bad press.

Second, "requires twice as much power to get the same radio signal" is a really weird thing to say. This sounds like a network matching issue which isn't the type of thing that goes undetected.

Third, in a world where we can etch circuits to nm accuracy, making antennas for mm wavelength signals isn't high stakes. It's not a car radio whip, but it's not new science. The modem is the hard part here.

Apple has the chops to design an antenna just as well a Qualcomm. Qualcomm made an antenna module in a single form factor and it doesn't fit Apple's design, so they're making their own-- it's not like they're claiming Qualcomm can't make a decent antenna, they're just saying that Qualcomm isn't doing a custom design to fit the iPhone.
 

brucemr

macrumors regular
Sep 25, 2019
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Does 4G and 5G use the same antenna(s) ?

I ask because if I got a 2020 iPhone later this year... I'll probably be on 4G almost all of the time.

In other words... I hope Apple doesn't solely focus on 5G performance... and cut corners on 4G performance.
Yes and no. The part of 5G frequency spectrum that is sub 6 GHz frequency can use same antenna as 4G LTE. Note that 4G is all sub 6 GHz as well (as is 1G, 2G, and 3G cellular).

The antenna for mm wave 5G only is what the article is about. mm wave is frequencies at and above 28GHz. These high frequencies required special new Antenna technology, and currently a separate antenna to provide that.

Rest easy, as the majority of people in world that will utilize 5G will use sub 6 GHz 5G for next many years, many will never use mm wave 5G.
 
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konqerror

macrumors 68000
Dec 31, 2013
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5G's whole mmWave antenna situation is a mess because you need multiple modules around the phone, since your hand 100% blocks the signal.

I wonder how this is going to affect aftermarket cases.
That's not quite accurate. A good portion of the signal is reflected. That fact is exploited in the same way we exploit the fact that buildings and hills reflect cellular-band signals today: we place multiple antennas around the phone to do MIMO.
 

coolfactor

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2002
4,537
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Vancouver, BC
iPhone 4's antenna was "external", and it's true that a light grip on the phone did not cause problems. Those that held it in a full palm caused enough signal drain through their own body to prevent it from working properly. Installing a case prevented the direct skin-to-antenna contact thereby avoiding the signal-loss problem, too. Apple learned their lesson, which is what engineering is all about. And they provided free cases as a workaround, too. Not every product will work perfectly every time. What matters most is how a company responds to reported problems, and Apple does a stellar job with that.

I won't be surprised if Apple comes out with an industry-leading 5G antenna this time around.
 
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SAIRUS

macrumors 6502a
Aug 21, 2008
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Compared to what exactly? The software has never been the pitfall for the iPhone, Nothing else even comes close.
iOS 13 heck 12 was a break but 7 was a real **** show.
air pods pro firmware
heck even tvOS has a pretty bad bug where online connections between shared iCloud syncs cause the device to lose connection. I can reproduce it every time.


hey remember this is the company that charges a premium for a premium product. That includes software and hardware.
 

JPack

macrumors 603
Mar 27, 2017
5,118
7,638
That Fast Company article sounds like a lot of words spun out of a one sentence rumor ("Apple is experimenting with their own antenna").

First, how does one say Apple doesn't have a good track record of designing antennas when the only counter example is the iPhone 4 and "another one"? With all the antennas in Apple products, I'd say they're doing pretty well if only one got bad press.

Second, "requires twice as much power to get the same radio signal" is a really weird thing to say. This sounds like a network matching issue which isn't the type of thing that goes undetected.

Third, in a world where we can etch circuits to nm accuracy, making antennas for mm wavelength signals isn't high stakes. It's not a car radio whip, but it's not new science. The modem is the hard part here.

Apple has the chops to design an antenna just as well a Qualcomm. Qualcomm made an antenna module in a single form factor and it doesn't fit Apple's design, so they're making their own-- it's not like they're claiming Qualcomm can't make a decent antenna, they're just saying that Qualcomm isn't doing a custom design to fit the iPhone.
Apple has no track record designing their own front end RF.

Current iPhones use Qorvo and Skyworks. In the past, Apple has used Broadcom/Avago for iPhone X.
 

tennisproha

macrumors 65816
Jun 24, 2011
1,229
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Texas
Sounds like 5g iphone is gonna be quite the roller coaster. I’ll continue to wait until they get rid of that hideous camera bump that makes it impossible to have a caseless iphone.
 

konqerror

macrumors 68000
Dec 31, 2013
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Second, "requires twice as much power to get the same radio signal" is a really weird thing to say. This sounds like a network matching issue which isn't the type of thing that goes undetected.
Not matching. Antenna efficiency, i.e. radiation resistance. Small antennas are bad at efficiency, by the laws of physics.

Third, in a world where we can etch circuits to nm accuracy, making antennas for mm wavelength signals isn't high stakes. It's not a car radio whip, but it's not new science. The modem is the hard part here.
Tell that to people who spend their entire careers and PhDs in antenna design. When you have to account for factors like detuning because somebody's hand is next to it, RF safety, other antennas and random metal pieces from the rest of the phone coupling in, and cost. It's a nasty problem.

And "mm-wave" is 30 GHz = 1 cm, which means everything within 2-3 cm is in the near-field, which given multiple antennas for MIMO, it means the whole phone is interacting.
 

SergZzz

macrumors newbie
Feb 6, 2020
4
4
Qualcomm's X55 5G modem uses last years QTM525 mmwave antenna module, which is ginormous and ugly. But Qualcomm's X55 5G modem supports antenna tuning which means Apple can develop their own antenna module. I say give me the fat phone with big 5000 Mah battery 🔋
 

vseera

macrumors regular
May 27, 2011
151
203
As others have said, I’m quite sceptical about this and hope Apple manages to pull it off.
I’d really prefer the phone not get any thicker or heavier! So good on them for trying to keep it slim.
 

szw-mapple fan

macrumors 68000
Jul 28, 2012
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Apple does not have to buy from Qualcomm. They are free to design their own 5g modem. Apple chooses to buy from Qualcomm. Apple needs what Qualcomm offers for sale.
So the choice is not really there. It's like if there is only one market in town and the alternative to buying food there is to grow your own. It's not impossible, but there is no equivalent competition that offers a real choice.
- - Post merged: - -

Oh boo hoo to Apple, as you say Qualcomm has a "near monopoly" so not a complete monopoly which means Apple still has a choice! Correct me if i'm wrong.
Smaller suppliers are not really realistic for Apple since I doubt any of them have the capacity to produce as many units as Apple needs. Minor Android OEMs might have a choice because they ship less units, but Apple can't realistically pick anyone other than Qualcomm.
 

TechGonzo

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2020
1
0
Good. It's never too early to move dependency away from Qualcomm.
Haha, Apple 4G or 5G antennae designs... now that's a good one! They bought a failed modem team and are marketing that they are great modem designers now. Wow! What they are good at is negotiating tech for uber discounted prices until the supplier crumbles and then they absorb the engineers to build in house. Where have all of the Apple suppliers gone? Why do they disappear?