A few days ago, Bloomberg (always Bloomberg) advanced Apple’s plans to manufacture its own cellular chip, which integrates both the mobile data signal and WiFi and Bluetooth. One more step to achieve self-sufficiency, at least in the design of its components, which began a long time ago.
Although this step would not be ready until 2024 or 2025, it only confirms a course on Apple’s part that this time Broadcom, the company that produces the WiFi and Bluetooth chip for Apple, would be charged as a victim. The additional novelty would be, in addition to being designed by Apple itself, in combining both connections with the cellular network, something that would presumably result in an improvement in the autonomy of the terminal. What does Apple have left to bring to home design?
Battery, RAM, cameras… and little else
Inside an Apple product we can see several components that are already designed by the company itself, such as the chips of the iPhone and iPad since 2010, when the A4 arrived, which has extended to the current A16 Bionic; as well as those of the M series, which began to reach the Mac in 2020 and the iPad in 2021. In the case of the Macs, it was Intel that stayed by the wayside at the expense of Apple’s willingness to control the deadlines and the capabilities of their chips through their design.
Manufacturing is handled by TSMC (overly reliant on Apple) and Samsung, the only companies in the world capable of mass-manufacturing on the architecture Apple demands and within the timeframes required by the latest devices.
However, other components such as screens have not yet been adopted by Apple as part of its proprietary design strategy. Although they have been on the roadmap for some time. Samsung and LG are the main panel providers for Apple, although depending on the device, there are more, such as Sharp or Japan Display.
For almost five years it has been published about Apple’s desire to develop its own panels, and although the original deadlines set the time to start switching to its own microLED screens in 2020, the high cost and insufficient technological evolution forced it to be postponed. the plans. The idea went back a long way: from when Apple bought LuxVue in 2014.
These types of panels, as promising as they are expensive, will begin to be incorporated into the smallest diagonals, to end up moving to larger devices once their costs have been contained. Gurman’s recent leak, which tells that the first microLED that Apple will mount will be destined for the Apple Watch Ultra in 2024, fits with that hypothesis.
There are fewer and fewer main components whose design Apple does not control or plans to control: RAM, battery and camera module.
Another Apple purchase, that of Intel’s modem division in 2019, has to do with self-sufficiency in technological development. The 2022 iPhone 14 Pro equips Qualcomm’s X65 modem, with 5G mmWave support and up to 10 Gbps download. This component has an expiration date if logical if we pay attention to the roadmap shown by Apple and its purchase of 2019.
image sensors for the iPhone camera module remains a component that continues to be of a foreign design, Sony being the one who assembles them, and with recent rumors that do not suggest that Apple is going to take care of their design, but quite the opposite: they would continue to bet on Sony as a supplier. Apple, like other manufacturers, takes care of everything that happens at the software level with the camera, but the optics come from Sony.
We’ve been partnering with Sony for over a decade to create the world’s leading camera sensors for iPhone. Thanks to Ken and everyone on the team for showing me around the cutting-edge facility in Kumamoto today. pic.twitter.com/462SEkUbhi
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) December 13, 2022
Another component that still does not have the stamp of Apple is RAM memory. The 6 GB modules that mount the iPhone 14 Pro come from external suppliers. Although it has never been specified who supplies the LPDDR5 modules that have been released in the last generation, Digitimes, a medium specialized in the supply chain of large technology companies, has mentioned Samsung Electronics, Micron Technology y SK Hynix as suppliers of this type of components for Apple.
The battery is not born from Apple itself, but from SG Micro, As explained in the summer by Ming Chi Kuo, renowned analyst with sources in the production chain. This provider would be the one who supplies the battery and the PMIC (power management integrated circuit) to Apple from 2022.
A part of Apple’s enormous annual investment in R&D, which closed fiscal year 2022 above 26,000 million dollars, is explained in these efforts by technological self-sufficiency, at least at the development level.
Another major responsible for this escalation is the Titan project, which has been in charge of developing Apple’s car since 2014, but that’s another story.
Featured image: Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash.
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