Is Apple’s Qualcomm relationship already on the rocks?

Apple and Qualcomm have never enjoyed the easiest relationship and the two companies were involved in litigation before they agreed to a peace deal that popped Qualcomm’s 5G radios inside iPhones.

Now, it looks like that partnership is on the rocks.

Why things are changing

There are three reports that set off this train of thought:

  1. A Digitimes report that claims Apple is speaking with new suppliers ASE Technology and Siliconware Precision Industries for some of the work required to build its self-designed 5G modems, rather than using Qualcomm’s.
  2. News that Apple wants TSMC to manufacture self-developed modems that are expected to appear in the 2023 (or perhaps this year’s) iPhone, and made using 5nm or 4nm process (or 6nm, according to other reports).
  3. Apple has asked the US government to intervene in an ongoing dispute between itself and Qualcomm. The company asked for an appeals decision to be reviewed because it could prevent Apple from challenging patents in a new case once the deal between the two firms ends.

Put these three sets of claims together, and other than some confusion around timing of these self-designed 5G chips (this year or next), you see a company that is pressing forward with creating manufacturing partnerships to provide its own modems — and is prepping for any subsequent litigation with Qualcomm.

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