Apple will be designing the antenna modules required for 5G on the iPhone 12. The company had earlier planned on using Qualcomm’s QTM525 mmWave antenna module but its design was not aligning with the iPhone 12 design.
Due to this reason, the company has decided to design its own mmWave antenna modules. However, its engineers are also working on another design that uses Qualcomm modem and antenna modules. This second option could be used as a backup by the company in case its own antenna modules are not ready in time. This modem and antenna combination will force Apple to increase the thickness of the iPhone 12 though.
Designing an antenna is a difficult job and while Apple has designed them before, the results were less than stellar — remember antennagate? There’s also the fact that designing 5G mmWave antenna modules is going to be extremely difficult. 5G components are still new and there are a number of issues that could crop up if Apple ends up using its own antenna module alongside Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem.
The 5G iPhone will use a “phased array” antenna with two parts that work together to form a beam of radio signal. The beam can be electronically steered in different directions without the antenna moving. The modem chip and the antenna module work closely together to make this work properly, our source said. Having the two parts made by different companies may introduce some uncertainty and bump up the difficulty level of the overall design.
Apple had stopped sourcing modem from Qualcomm and instead switched over to Intel after a major legal battle broke out between the two companies. But with Intel failing to meet the development deadline of its 5G modem, Apple was forced to settle all issues with Qualcomm as it wanted to ensure it could launch 5G iPhones in 2020. Intel eventually sold off its modem business to Apple. The resources will come in handy for the latter as it is working on its own modem in-house but that is not expected to make its debut until at least 2021.