Apple iPhone 7 may feature Intel's LTE chip, hints Qualcomm CEO

Apple's upcoming iPhone 7 may feature Intel's LTE modem chips instead of Qualcomm's, hinted Qualcomm's CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

Mollenkopf said he assumed that a major customer may order future LTE modem chips from a rival, thus inflicting a major loss of business to the chipmaker.

As of now, Apple and Samsung are the biggest customers of Qualcomm's LTE chips. Since Samsung already sources such chips from a variety of manufacturers, the assumption of Qualcomm's CEO points straight at Apple.

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Qualcomm currently supplies MDM9635 LTE chips that power Apple's latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus phones. These chips offer download and upload speeds of 300 Mbps and 50 Mbps and are compatible with the LTE- Advanced specification which is the current standard for premium 4G phones.

According to the Bloomberg who broke the news, Qualcomm may lose some of the orders for new modem chips but not all. However, given that Apple usually sells upwards of 80 million iPhones every year, a loss of contract for components can be crippling for any vendor. Qualcomm's stock fell 2.5 per cent in early trading at NYSE after the news broke.

Mollenkopf's comments came even as he assured investors that the company will deliver profits, notwithstanding loss of contracts from major customers.

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The fact that Apple may go for Intel's LTE chips isn't something that we haven't heard before. Back in March, CLSA Securities analyst Srini Pajjuri said in a research note that Intel has secured a contract to supply 30 to 40 per cent of LTE chips for Apple's next iPhone. According to him, the rest of the chips will continue to be manufactured and supplied by Qualcomm.

"While Apple is looking to cut some reliance on Qualcomm, the company doesn't plan to completely turn away from the chipmaker. On the contrary, the analyst believes that the company will "share shift back" to Qualcomm in 2017," he said.

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Around the same time, Intel announced its new Intel® XMM™ 7360 LTE Advanced modem chips which are capable of offering "support for up to Category 10 and download speeds up to 450 Mbps." Announcing the chip at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Intel said that "its compact size and power efficiency enable the Intel XMM 7360 to accommodate a wide range of form factors, from smartphones and phablets to tablets and PCs. It also expands Intel’s portfolio of LTE solutions, giving device manufacturers a competitive option to quickly design and launch LTE devices in various market segments and geographies.

MacRumours also revealed back in October that Intel has 1,000 employees working on the new Intel 7360 LTE modem which will power future iPhones. "One source said Intel needs a small army of people on the Apple account because of the importance of the project to Apple's future in the mobile market, because of the complexity of the project, and because Apple is a demanding client with an extremely popular phone," it said.

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