Apple's Acquisition of Intel's Smartphone Modem Business Completed, Intel Admits 'Multi-Billion Dollar Loss'

ElectricPotato

macrumors 6502
Dec 13, 2018
308
880
Seattle
AMD is killing Intel on the CPU front. To the point you have to wonder when Apple might start putting AMD inside..
Both AMD and Intel are selling every CPU they can make. Unfortunately for AMD, just like in previous periods when they had a technical advantage, they can't make enough to displace Intel. Apple won't risk its special treatment by Intel for leftover scraps of already insufficient manufacturing capacity from AMD.

Maybe this will change, but for now AMD has a technical advantage they can't exploit.
 

Bandaman

macrumors 6502
Aug 28, 2019
369
888
I don't think this is a valid comparison. The A-series chip is something completely hidden from the external world. On the other hand, building a cutting edge modem requires making calculated calls on where the industry will move and having deep knowledge of the relevant standards, and any non-standard enhancements, that would allow interoperability with carrier equipment. Since Apple doesn't build carrier equipment, they will likely always be trailing the competition.
That's an awfully negative assumption based on nothing. We have no idea where this is going to go until they get there. Obviously Intel has been sucking on an epic level, but let's see where Apple can take this.
 
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V_Man

macrumors 6502
Nov 23, 2019
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Qualcomm is basically killing the market...
I’m very intrigued by Apple solution in 2022. When they entered the market for CPU and GPU in the past years, they literally annihilated competitors.
Qualcomm is absolutely killing the competition with modems. They build the best cellular radios. Intel tried and failed.

curious to see if Apple can improve on the technology.
- - Post merged: - -

Would you rather have the A13 or the Snapdragon 855?
Not talking about A13 or snapdragon. Talking about Modems. And Qualcomm rules the roost with that technology.
But I would prefer the A13 for an iphone.
 

techwhiz

macrumors 6502a
Feb 22, 2010
968
1,183
Northern Ca.
The wireless standards track is well-known by all the players, and there aren't really that many choices you have to make. And Apple has some experience being on the cutting edge of wireless: they were the first vendor to ship 802.11. And in any case the standards are, well, standards. No equipment vendor in their right mind wouldn't allow Apple into their interoperability labs.

The real question, though, is if it's really worth it for Apple to be in the modem business at all. That business relies on economies of scale and a lot of engineering and wireless expertise.

I'd guess the goal is to do what it did with Bluetooth and the W1, making the modem low-power. Radios are a big power draw, and I doubt Qualcomm or Intel were willing to make a power/performance tradeoff. At some point that could become yet another competitive advantage for Apple.

I mean, they could probably save a bunch of power just by optimizing the modem's software stack. Most of those modems are driven using the Hayes AT command set, which means you need some kind of serial emulator. Apple could rip out that interface layer and go direct to the modem, which would make it more efficient, which should lead to better power/performance.

If they did it for BT/WiFi they should be able to do it for LTE/5G/6G and beyond.
The biggest power draw is baseband connectivity and the signal processing.
Having very steep roll off filters is a must. Broadcom (Avago) with their FBAR pose the biggest hurdle in Apple reducing power. To date there aren't any better filters and they control the low power space for the actual cellular interface. Low insertion loss and high rejection. Broadcom is king in this space.
 

StevieD100

macrumors 6502a
Jan 18, 2014
576
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Living Dangerously in Retirement
I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Apple using Intel-derived modems in a two-chip solution as early as 2020 or 2021, although it will take them longer to integrate a modem with their CPU and other components in a SoC. From what I heard the Intel 5G modem wasn't too far from completion when the Apple acquisition was announced.

In any case, Qualcomm has solidified its stranglehold on the market for now. Will be interesting to see what the big players other than Apple will do (primarily Huawei and Samsung).
Huawei are now building phones with zero US content (no QC chips) so it wlll be interesting to see what their 5G offering is like.
 

Baymowe335

macrumors 603
Oct 6, 2017
5,661
10,069
I'm pretty sure they will design great modems. Neither the A13 nor the Snapdragon 855 have anything to do with that though. There's no corollary of success that can be gleaned from the comparison you tried to make.
Yeah they do.
 

cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
14,486
9,156
California
I'm sure like most things Apple will be conservative in any Modem roll outs en masse on their phones.
Conservative? Like when they surprised the whole industry and put 64-bit chips in all their mobile products?

Or conservative like when they flipped a switch and put a completely new file system on millions of devices all at once?
- - Post merged: - -

The biggest power draw is baseband connectivity and the signal processing.
Having very steep roll off filters is a must. Broadcom (Avago) with their FBAR pose the biggest hurdle in Apple reducing power. To date there aren't any better filters and they control the low power space for the actual cellular interface. Low insertion loss and high rejection. Broadcom is king in this space.
There’s always triquint :)

https://casetext.com/case/triquint-semiconductor-2

FBARs are fascinating to me.
 
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konqerror

macrumors 65816
Dec 31, 2013
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Conservative? Like when they surprised the whole industry and put 64-bit chips in all their mobile products?

Or conservative like when they flipped a switch and put a completely new file system on millions of devices all at once?
Not an equal comparison. Apple controlled the software stack, and the 64-bit changeover allowed them to ultimately increase performance and battery lifetime. APFS is a purely software change.

On the other hand, 5G immediately requires a lot more computational power and battery drain. Apple needs to wait until chip power consumption drops due to better fab and circuit design techniques. Further, for 5G to have any utility, it relies on third-parties, carriers, to deploy the network. Apple needs to match their bands, whether sub-6 GHz or mmWave, and ensure compatibility.

5G goes beyond the baseband too. You need power amplifiers, LNAs, filters, antennas, switches, that come from different suppliers you've never heard of, using all sorts of exotic semiconductor technology that aren't silicon.

In other words, 5G involves a whole lot more moving parts, carriers, government, and multiple chipset suppliers, than simple software changes.
 

V_Man

macrumors 6502
Nov 23, 2019
256
280
Not an equal comparison. Apple controlled the software stack, and the 64-bit changeover allowed them to ultimately increase performance and battery lifetime. APFS is a purely software change.

On the other hand, 5G immediately requires a lot more computational power and battery drain. Apple needs to wait until chip power consumption drops due to better fab and circuit design techniques. Further, for 5G to have any utility, it relies on third-parties, carriers, to deploy the network. Apple needs to match their bands, whether sub-6 GHz or mmWave, and ensure compatibility.
T-Mobile just rolled out nationwide 5G. 😀
 
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konqerror

macrumors 65816
Dec 31, 2013
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T-Mobile just rolled out nationwide 5G. 😀
One carrier in one part of the world on one frequency band. In many ways, infrastructure is easier: they don't run on battery, it doesn't have to fit in a pocket, they aren't as cost-sensitive, they don't interface with other carriers and don't have to work worldwide.
 

OS X Dude

macrumors 6502a
Jun 30, 2007
981
224
UK
Hopefully they get back into the Wi-Fi router game, using elements of this acquisition to offer a USP. Wishful thinking I’m sure but it’d be great to see a kick-ass 2020 AirPort Extreme. People need an Apple router more than ever, arguably, with all the smart home kit knocking around these days. Apple made set-up simple and emphasised security for everyone.
 
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V_Man

macrumors 6502
Nov 23, 2019
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One carrier in one part of the world on one frequency band. In many ways, infrastructure is easier: they don't run on battery, it doesn't have to fit in a pocket, they aren't as cost-sensitive, they don't interface with other carriers and don't have to work worldwide.
I agree. But it is a start.
 

MrGIS

macrumors regular
Jul 30, 2010
172
44
Ontario Canada
Both AMD and Intel are selling every CPU they can make. Unfortunately for AMD, just like in previous periods when they had a technical advantage, they can't make enough to displace Intel. Apple won't risk its special treatment by Intel for leftover scraps of already insufficient manufacturing capacity from AMD.

Maybe this will change, but for now AMD has a technical advantage they can't exploit.
Good points. But does AMD need to displace Intel to do business with Apple? I'm no expert, but surely they have capacity for Apple's needs. In any event, it's all likely moot as all signs point to Apple using ARM based CPU's in (some Mac's anyway) in the relatively not too distant future.
 

cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
14,486
9,156
California
Not an equal comparison. Apple controlled the software stack, and the 64-bit changeover allowed them to ultimately increase performance and battery lifetime. APFS is a purely software change.

On the other hand, 5G immediately requires a lot more computational power and battery drain. Apple needs to wait until chip power consumption drops due to better fab and circuit design techniques. Further, for 5G to have any utility, it relies on third-parties, carriers, to deploy the network. Apple needs to match their bands, whether sub-6 GHz or mmWave, and ensure compatibility.

5G goes beyond the baseband too. You need power amplifiers, LNAs, filters, antennas, switches, that come from different suppliers you've never heard of, using all sorts of exotic semiconductor technology that aren't silicon.

In other words, 5G involves a whole lot more moving parts, carriers, government, and multiple chipset suppliers, than simple software changes.
None of which is at all relevant to the characterization of Apple as "conservative."
 
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itguy06

macrumors 6502a
Mar 8, 2006
822
1,064
At least Intel makes better processors than AMD so this mistake should not hurt them that much (i.e. their computer chip business will make up the loss).
Thanks for the laugh. Intel is getting killed in the chip space by AMD. AMD is faster, has more cores, uses less power, and is cheaper. And AMD is a little more secure than Intel.

Intel has never been anything special. We owe modern computing more to AMD than we do to Intel. Hint x86-64 (the basis of our 64-bit computing on X86) was AMDs design.

- - Post merged: - -

Both AMD and Intel are selling every CPU they can make. Unfortunately for AMD, just like in previous periods when they had a technical advantage, they can't make enough to displace Intel. Apple won't risk its special treatment by Intel for leftover scraps of already insufficient manufacturing capacity from AMD.

Maybe this will change, but for now AMD has a technical advantage they can't exploit.
Huh? Except for the recently launched Ryzen 7 3900x stock of AMD CPU's is fine. You can walk in and buy most Ryzen chips. Threadripper may be constrained now but I'd expect that to level out soon. EPYC, well they are winning contracts with them left and right.

I'm sure Apple doesn't care about their Special Intel treatment. Intel is getting hammered now and has more shortages than AMD.

AMD getting out of the foundry business (unlike Intel) means they can add capacity easier than Intel. So they can ramp up quicker. Especially since their process is much smaller than Intel (higher yields).

Time for Intel to get knocked down a couple hundred pegs and go the way of Cyrix. They have been bending us all over and not using lube for far too long.
 
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Kabeyun

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Mar 27, 2004
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Eastern USA

MacBH928

macrumors 68040
May 17, 2008
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It scares me to know that a company as rich as Intel and as expert as they are on a complex thing such as a CPU, they couldn't make it in the cellphone modem business.

AMD doesn't kill Intel when you look at power consumption which is relatively important on a Macbook.
Doesn't AMD use Intel licensed x86 architecture?
 

rp2011

macrumors 65816
Oct 12, 2010
1,291
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With iPhones, iPads, Watches, even MacBooks, I’d say Apple is good with the economies of scale for it to be more than worth it.
 

Abazigal

macrumors G5
Jul 18, 2011
12,066
9,811
Singapore
these numbers don’t add up unless the licensing agreement allows Apple to deploy their own modems alongside QC’s. Which would be weird. Any other interpretations?
I see them as 2 separate matters.

Qualcomm knows very well that Apple doesn't want to remain as Qualcomm's customer forever, so they likely wanted to lock in Apple's business for as long a period of time as possible. Meanwhile, Apple is definitely exploring the development of their own 5g modems, but this takes time, and until that day comes, they still need Qualcomm.

The deal has bought Apple some time to develop their own modems. I don't think Apple will actually need the full 6 years to come up with a viable alternative, but based on how the lawsuit earlier this year turned out, Apple seemed to be in a hurry to settle as the odds were not in their favour (plus Apple most certainly needs a 5g modem in time for the 2020 iPhone), so I suspect Apple simply didn't have the leverage to negotiate a better deal. So 6 years it was.

As for whether Apple is able to deploy their own 5g modems, I have no idea, but it's also possible that they may decide to just sit on it and continue refining it until their contract with Qualcomm expires. In all fairness, Qualcomm's modems are very good; the key reason why Apple went with Intel ones was due to lower licensing costs, not so much performance.
 

1989MacSE30

macrumors newbie
Sep 4, 2019
8
10
Seattle
Intel is an ungainly company that has trouble bringing products to market. This is not their first multi-billion dollar loss in recent years. The McAfee spin off is another. Of course, Intel still owns 49%, but there is not much hope of the value rising much.