Qualcomm’s President Cristiano Amon says that the company is working with Apple to launch a 5G iPhone “as fast as we can.” The statement was made by the Qualcomm president at the ongoing Snapdragon Tech Summit where the company announced its new X55 5G modem and flagship chipset for 2020 Android smartphones, the Snapdragon 865.
He also shed more light on the multi-year licensing agreement between Qualcomm and Apple. The president added that the “priority number one of this relationship with Apple is how to launch their phone as fast as we can.”
His statements also made it clear that while the 5G iPhone will use a 5G modem from Qualcomm, the front-end will be supplied by another company. This is because Apple and Qualcomm started working on the 5G modem for the 2020 iPhone very late and by then Apple had already locked on to its front-end components. The front-end RF components include the antenna, signal tuners, and power amplifiers. They play a key role in reducing power consumption and catching onto signal in areas with poor network coverage.
“We re-engaged probably later than both of us would like, and I think we’ve been working together to try to get as much as possible done, and take as much possible advantage of what they’ve done before so that we can actually launch a phone on schedule with 5G,” Amon said.
Qualcomm primarily recommends companies to use its own RF front-end system for the best performance and power savings. While most OEMs go that way and save the trouble and R&D of optimizing the new RF front-end, Apple has previously mixed Qualcomm’s modem with RF front-end systems of its own choice. This has always led to iPhones not offering the best networking performance around but that has not really mattered in terms of sales.
Apple will still have to at least partially rely on Qualcomm’s front-end system since its the only one right now that makes mmWave antenna modules that work with AT&T and Verizon’s 5G networks.
It looks like launching a 5G iPhone in 2020 was a major reason behind Apple dropping all cases against Qualcomm and signing a multi-year agreement with it. Apple was previously working with Intel on a 5G modem, but the latter was failing to meet the development schedule prompting Apple to take this step.