Figure: Qualcomm X55 5G modem chip is expected to be used in Apple iPhone 12
Netease Technology News on February 15th, according to foreign media reports, on Friday, US local time, there are many different opinions about which antenna technology is expected to be used by Apple’s 5G version of the iPhone 12. Among them, sources said that because of dissatisfaction with Qualcomm’s antenna technology, Apple is conducting independent research and development.
Multiple sources are speculating about the antenna material, design and component suppliers of the 5G iPhone 12. Some of them said that Apple is working with Qualcomm to design custom antennas. According to a report written by Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known Apple analyst, things have not been completely determined. Behind the scenes in the antenna array is who will provide key power amplifier (PA) components.
Earlier on Friday, Guo Mingdi discussed the situation in a report to investors. He believes that the power amplifier supply contained in the antenna remains unstable. Guo Mingyi initially believed that Broadcom and Avago would be responsible for the design, and Win Semi provided the iPhone 5G PA circuit production related to the antenna system. However, he subsequently modified his statement that Qorvo and Skyworks would replace Broadcom as a supplier of iPhone 5G PAs, and Broadcom would focus only on the supply of mid-to-high frequency integrated with one of the many potential models expected to launch in the fall of 2020 Segment PA.
By Friday afternoon, there were more details on determining who will provide the power amplifier and how to deliver it. Anonymous sources said that Apple was dissatisfied with the design of Qualcomm’s QTM 525 series millimeter-wave antenna module because it was inconsistent with Apple’s planned equipment design. The QTM 525 module includes a power amplifier and Qualcomm’s X55 modem. There are also reports suggesting that Apple may be developing its own “phased array” antenna, which is different from the QTM 525. However, this seems unlikely given the 5G agreement that Apple and Qualcomm signed in 2019, which provides Apple with technology and licenses from antennas to modems.
There are media reports that there is a certain degree of “complaint” between Apple and Qualcomm. Sources said that despite the agreement, Apple felt it was a “copyright frustrated” company and tried to minimize the number of Qualcomm components used in the “iPhone 12”.
To make things even more complicated and confusing, Guo Mingyu claims that the design of the 5G iPhone 12 is “2×2 uplink.” It is unclear what he is talking about. Compared with the existing 4G network terminology and technology, the sub-6Ghz network and millimeter-wave antenna architecture related to 5G architecture are slightly different.
However, both reports agree that the internal and external design of the antenna module has not yet been determined. “The order allocation for the iPhone 5G PA has not yet been determined,” said Guo Mingyu. Other media also confirmed the news, claiming that Apple may resume using Qualcomm’s entire package later in the design process.
In February 2019, the first reports of Apple’s commitment to independent research and development of 5G modems began to appear. At the time, Johny Srouji was said to have led the department, including the recruitment of a cellular system architect in San Diego. It is rumored that San Diego is where Apple plans to build new chips.
At this point, Apple and Qualcomm have not yet started a legal battle over cellular technology licensing on the so-called “no license, no chip” condition stipulated by Qualcomm. In April 2019, when Apple and Qualcomm announced an agreement to end legal actions against each other, Intel announced that it would withdraw from the 5G modem business of smartphones.
Apple acquired Intel’s modem business in July 2019. As part of the transaction, it acquired Intel’s cellular patent portfolio, which is said to include 6,000 patent assets related to 3G, 4G and 5G cellular standards, and 1700 assets related to wireless implementation technology. The second portfolio also includes 500 patents that have “broad applicability” in both the semiconductor and electronics industries.
In October 2019, it was reported that Apple set a deadline of 2022 and must develop an internal cellular modem for the iPhone and iPad. This will include not only the antenna but also the modem chip, which is very similar to the rumored Qualcomm may provide in the QTM 525 assembly.
It’s unclear which products Apple has successfully developed. However, if the 2022 deadline is accurate, it may be too early for Apple to develop anything for the iPhone 12 that could be used in a 5G modem and antenna kit.
5G support, the iPhone 12 in 2020
In addition to 5G support, the iPhone 12 in 2020 is expected to use the rear camera for 3D depth sensing. It has also been suggested that Apple can use the acoustic fingerprint recognition technology to turn the entire display into a fingerprint reader to retrieve Touch ID, which has been reflected in several patent applications of the company.
In addition, the iPhone 12 is expected to have at least four independent models, including a 5.4-inch OLED screen rear dual camera version, a 6.1-inch OLED screen rear dual camera version, a 6.1-inch OLED screen rear triple cam plus time of flight sensor version and 6.7 inches OLED rear triple cam plus time of flight sensor version. In addition to the iPhone models that are expected to be launched in 2020, Guo Mingdi expects that Apple will launch the iPhone SE 2 with a 4.7-inch LCD screen in March 2020, which is similar in appearance to the iPhone 8. (Little)