iPhones released in 2020 might not come with any Intel wireless chips inside.
Citing internal company documents, Israeli website CTech by Calcalist says development of the unreleased “Sunny Peak” chip, which would have combined WiFi and Bluetooth radios together, has been halted. The report also claims all of the product developers that were working on the project have been shifted to other teams within the company.
Though the website says Apple’s decision to drop the Sunny Peak chip was due to “many factors,” one particular reason was the introduction of a new standard for WiGig, the 802.11ad Wi-Fi protocol that was first introduced in 2009.
An unnamed Intel executive reportedly said in the internal documents, “The introduction of a new speedy WiFi standard WiGig (802.11ad) ‘into any mobile product brings new and unanticipated challenges’.”
The original CTech by Calcalist story incorrectly claimed Sunny Peak combined a 5G radio with WiFi and Bluetooth. 5G was not in fact an included component on the canceled chip. It’s still unclear if Intel will produce any 5G chips for future iPhones.
“Intel’s 5G customer engagements and roadmap have not changed for 2018 through 2020. We remain committed to our 5G plans and projects,” an Intel spokesperson told Mashable.
However, if Apple were to not include any 5G Intel chips in future iPhones, it could seriously hurt the chipmaker’s inroads in the mobile space. Intel currently supplies baseband modems for some iPhones — the GSM models (AT&T and T-Mobile). Qualcomm supplies wireless modems for iPhones with CDMA radios (Verizon and Sprint).
With Apple and Qualcomm fighting over patent disputes and rumors Apple might ditch its chips altogether, Intel is seemingly in a good position to scoop up more iPhone business by becoming the sole provider of modem chips for future iPhones.
Apple is reportedly developing its own modems (because of course it is) and exploring the possibility of using wireless chips made by MediaTek. The latter is rumored to be supplying Apple with Wi-Fi chips for future HomePods and reportedly very close to displacing Intel as the secondary modem supplier for future iPhones.
MediaTek revealed its first 5G modem, the Helio M70, at Computex in June. The 5G chip is capable of transmitting data at up to 5Gbps, roughly on par with Intel’s own 5G modems, which have theoretical peak peak data transfers of “over 5Gbps.”
And even if MediaTek’s 5G chips aren’t as fast as Intel’s, the data speeds would still be a significant increase from the average of 450Mbps available on current Qualcomm and Intel-equipped iPhones.
Losing the iPhone business won’t be the only thing that could hurt Intel in 2020. Apple is also reportedly planning to dump Intel’s x86 chips in favor of its own custom-designed processors in at least some Macs sometime in the same year.
If Apple makes good on dropping Intel from both its iPhones and Macs, the chipmaker could be in for a real bruisin’. The last thing it wants to do is have no part in the world’s most valuable tech company, which sells hundreds of millions of iPhones and millions of Macs. That’s just really bad business.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Intel component also included 5G connectivity.