After reportedly recruiting new employees to work on an ambitious project meant to ultimately cut its reliance on third-party cellular modem designers like Intel, Apple may have operated a key organizational change signaling the seriousness of these efforts.
Starting last month, “two people familiar” with the matter tell Reuters Johny Srouji is in charge of in-house modem chip development after taking over from Ruben Caballero. Srouji is Apple’s Senior Vice President of the Hardware Technologies division, reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook, while Caballero is a lower-ranking official whose main role is that of Vice President in the Wireless System Design Engineering Group.
In a nutshell, Apple is definitely treating this project seriously, even though a release timeline for the company’s first homebrewed modem remains unclear. After years of doing business with Qualcomm, the Cupertino-based smartphone vendor decided to take the semiconductor giant to court, replacing its services with that of arch-rival Intel.
From 2021 however, Apple may no longer need an external supplier to design high-speed iPhone modems. In the short run, such a bold move is likely to require investments and development costs of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But down the line, if the in-house production efforts bear fruit, Apple could save the billions of dollars a year typically paid to the likes of Qualcomm and Intel.
Another huge potential benefit would be integrating these in-house modems with A-series SoCs Apple already designs itself into smaller, more power-efficient, all-in-one silicon packages. But that’s still a very distant and theoretical prospect.