Apple’s self-developed 5G baseband prototype has poor performance

Previous reports suggested that Apple initially planned to unveil the fourth generation iPhone SE in 2024, marking it as the pioneer product equipped with Apple’s proprietary 5G modem. However, due to unforeseen delays in the development of their in-house 5G modem, large-scale production has been pushed to 2025, subsequently postponing the launch of the fourth-generation iPhone SE.

Qualcomm, earlier this month, released a statement affirming a renewed three-year agreement with Apple to continue supplying baseband chips for iPhones until 2026. This revelation somewhat substantiates the whispers amongst the cognoscenti, suggesting that Apple has encountered challenges in its in-house 5G baseband development. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s self-developed 5G modem, cryptically dubbed “Sinope,” demonstrated underwhelming performance in its prototype phase. Not only was its speed found wanting, but it also exhibited a predisposition to overheat. Furthermore, its uncharacteristically large circuit board design deviates dramatically from the iPhone’s traditionally compact aesthetics, consuming a significant portion of the internal space.

In 2018, Apple embarked on its journey to develop an in-house 5G baseband, further accelerating the project in 2019 with a whopping $1 billion acquisition of Intel’s smartphone chip business, eyeing its integration into the prospective iPhone 15 series. Qualcomm’s CEO, Cristiano Amon, during an interview at MWC 2023, indicated that Apple aimed to introduce its self-developed 5G baseband in 2024. However, current events suggest Apple’s ambitious aspirations have hit a stumbling block, with the development of the modem seemingly presenting more formidable challenges than even their self-developed Arm architecture chips.

Insiders have posited that managerial oversights in Apple’s 5G baseband development led to a failure in promptly identifying inherent flaws. Even if Apple’s proprietary 5G baseband were to materialize in 2025, it would still lag three years behind Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X75, making it a Herculean task to compete with contemporaneous mass-produced chips. Given the present circumstances, it seems improbable that Apple will incorporate its in-house 5G baseband into the upcoming iPhone 16 series, rendering another postponement of the project a likely scenario.