Apple has reportedly started work on a 6G modem — here’s what we know

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Despite claims last week to the contrary, Apple's effort to build its own iPhone modem is alive and well. In fact, a new report claims that the company has an eye toward 6G cellular connectivity even as work continues on an Apple-built 5G modem.

That detail was noted in a weekly column by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that notes some of the difficulties Apple has run into trying to develop an in-house modem. The column appeared a week after a couple of thinly sourced reports claimed that Apple's modem efforts were shutting down.

It's certainly true you won't see an Apple-built modem any time soon. Qualcomm, Apple's current supplier, has said it will be supplying iPhone modems through 2026, which would take us past next year's iPhone 16 all the way through the iPhone 18.

Yet, Gurman says that Apple is eager to not have to turn to Qualcomm for modems beyond that. "Apple is racing to get its modem finished so it doesn’t need to re-up a contract (again) to buy the component from Qualcomm," Gurman wrote.

There are advantages to Apple producing the modem in-house. The main advantage is that it would allow for a greater degree of quality control. Apple is known for being rigorous in its testing and is loath or release anything that doesn’t work to the fullest of its standards. The other reason is that it would allow for better control of product releases. It would also minimize the potential risk of stock shortages. 

Apart from the confirmation that Apple's modem efforts aren't coming to an end, there's another interesting bit of information in the Bloomberg report — Apple is already working on a 6G modem for future iPhones.

If we're a few years away from seeing an iPhone shipping with one of Apple's modems. a 6G modem is even further off. The 6G standard is unlikely to go into effect until 2030. 

6G, also known as the sixth generation wireless, would differ from the current 5G standard in several respects. The first concerns how much data can be transferred per second. Currently, 5G can deliver speeds of up to 20 Gbps (gigabytes per second) but 6G is anticipated to reach up to 1 Tbps (terabytes per second). 6G is also expected to have substantially lower latency, resulting in almost instantaneous data transfers. 

Bloomberg's report gibes with past job listings posted by Apple referencing 5G. And recently, there has been another posting for a "Modern Systems Software Architect" that would "coordinate the design and modeling of a 6G reference architecture." 

Again, we're unlikely to see a 6G modem from Apple or anyone until the end of the current decade. But it is very clear that Apple is not ready to give up its long-standing plans to develop more iPhone parts on its own.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.