One of the reasons Apple settled its long-standing beef with Qualcomm is because of 5G. Qualcomm is one of the only vendors who can make a 5G modem at the scale Apple needs. And a week after the two companies settled in court, noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a prediction: The 2020 iPhone will use Qualcomm’s baseband chips to connect to 5G networks.
Kuo expects Apple to diversify its 5G modem supply by also using Samsung chips, the analyst said in a note issued Monday and obtained by 9to5Mac. Divvying up the sources for 5G chips lessens the risk for Apple, Kuo said. The company will rely on Qualcomm’s chips for millimeter-wave spectrum and Samsung’s for sub-6GHz markets.
Prior to its resolution with Qualcomm, Apple’s sole 5G modem supplier was expected to be Intel. Intel’s 5G chips weren’t going to be ready until the 2021 iPhone’s production, and Apple realized that sitting out two 5G smartphone cycles wasn’t tenable since several of its rival phone makers will come out with 5G-ready devices this year. Intel has since announced that it will not be making any 5G modems, ceding the market to Qualcomm and Samsung.
Rumors suggested Apple had been working on developing its own 5G modems, similar to how it designs its own mobile processor. However, even if that effort is in the works, it would be a while before Apple could switch to its own modems. That's why the company would turn to suppliers like Qualcomm and Samsung, as Kuo is forecasting.
Kuo estimates that 195 to 200 million iPhones will ship next year, including 70 to 75 million flagship iPhones. That’s an increase over the 65 to 70 million iPhones Kuo expects Apple to ship this year.