iPhone 15 won’t have an Apple-built modem — and future iPhones won’t either

iPhone 14 Pro Max speed test app
(Image credit: Future)

We already suspected the iPhone 15 wasn't going to get an Apple-built modem. Now it's almost certain that the iPhone 16, iPhone 17 and iPhone 18 are going to miss out, too.

A day ahead of Apple's September 12 event, Qualcomm announced that it had reached an agreement to continue to supply Apple with its Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF systems. The deal covers modems for phones released in 2024, 2025 and 2026.

In recent years, Apple has been rumored to be working on a modem of its own that would supply connectivity for the iPhone. Apple tries to keep as much of the phone's design in-house as possible, as evidenced by the fact that the company designs its own mobile chipsets. Reports claimed Apple was building up its own modem division as way to break free from turning to Qualcomm for that part.

It's unclear if those efforts are still underway — Apple doesn't talk too freely about future product plans. But reports made it clear as early as late 2022 that the iPhone 15 wasn't going to feature an Apple-designed modem. Today's agreement would seemingly rule out a switch until 2027 at the earliest.

The iPhone 14 family uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon X65 modem — a perfectly fine component, but one that's a year behind the modems in some leading Android phones. Samsung's Galaxy S23 lineup uses the Snapdragon X70 modem, for example — the modem we expect the iPhone 15 to adopt. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon X75 modem

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

In a few months though, Samsung's flagship phones are likely to leap ahead of the iPhone 15 in terms of connectivity. The Galaxy S24 family is rumored to be using the Snapdragon X75 modem announced by Qualcomm earlier this year. The x75 promises improved connectivity and better power management over previous Qualcomm modems. In particular, Qualcomm uses a next-generation AI processor in the X75 that should deliver a 2.5x performance improvement over the X70's AI processor.

Samsung phones repeatedly deliver faster data speeds than iPhones, and we imagine that's going to continue once the Galaxy S24 debuts next year, even with the iPhone 15 featuring a better modem than its predecessor.

We're keeping an ear to the ground for all the latest iPhone 15 rumors ahead of Apple's big event tomorrow in our iPhone 15 live blog. We've also have a guide on how to watch the Apple iPhone 15 event so you can find out the latest on all of Apple's new devices.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.