Over the last few weeks, rumors have sprung up surrounding the possibility of Apple building its own wireless chips. The more time passes, the more credible these rumors start to look. And in this post, we’re going to take a deeper look at these claims and why they might be true. We’ll cover the evidence for the rumors as well as Apple’s motivations.
What are Apple wireless chips?
First, let’s explore what Apple wireless chips are. From what we first understood, Apple may have started work on building its own 5G chips. These are the chips that connect you to your wireless provider, GPS, and other satellite-based services.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Apple is looking to build its own connectivity towers. Apple won’t be competing with Verizon and AT&T anytime soon (if ever). You’ll still be able to connect to the same cellular providers you’re used to – that won’t change.
What will change is who supplies Apple with these chips. Right now, Qualcomm produces the chips in every Apple device with a cellular connection. That includes the iPhone, of course, as well as certain iPad and Apple Watch models.
Similar to Apple cutting ties with Intel to make its recent M-Series chips, this has less to do with changing your connectivity setup and more so changing how Apple manufactures products behind-the-scenes.
Currently, Apple makes its own chips for the iPhone, iPad, AirPods lineup, and most recently, Mac devices. These are processors, however, so their purpose is a bit different from wireless chips. Still, it’s more evidence that Apple might be moving in this direction.
Is Apple working on wireless chips?
Speaking of evidence, let’s get into the specifics of these rumors. Below are the three key pieces of information that have led people to believe that Apple is building its own Apple wireless chips.
It’s worth noting that even if Apple is working on wireless chips, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come to fruition. The rumors center around increasing investments in this department, but those investments aren’t guaranteed to result in a change for consumers anytime soon. It could be years (and likely will be) before we see any announcements about these chips being implemented.
Apple is hiring a new wireless team in SoCal
Alright, into the first piece of evidence! Though it hasn’t been officially verified by Apple (it declined to comment), Bloomberg recently reported that it discovered job listings from Apple calling for individuals with experience in modem chips and wireless semiconductors.
In other words, Apple is hiring people to work on wireless chips. These job listings are for SoCal, which might be some distance from Apple Circle in Cupertino.
While exciting, this isn’t necessarily hard evidence. Apple is always hiring people with specialist skillsets in tech. And just as with patents, it’s often that these hires aren’t for what we as consumers would expect. Still, it certainly seems to point to Apple developing wireless chips in-house.
Apple’s current strategy is to establish specialty satellite offices
Another aspect of these rumors revolves around the location of these new hires. As mentioned, they’re in Southern California, presumably a few hours away from the rest of Apple’s Cupertino headquarters.
The reason behind the distance is believed to be part of a new strategy from Apple. This strategy is to begin establishing specialty satellite offices around California and perhaps beyond. These would work under and with the Apple Circle HQ but would be physically separate.
There are many reasons why this could be the case. First, Cupertino is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. That means Apple employees are forced to work and live in such a costly environment.
By opening new offices around Cali and potentially elsewhere, employees will have more options for where they can live, creating a better environment of options for them.
Additionally, offices in more locations will increase the talent pool available to Apple. There may be talented individuals who can’t work for Apple because of where its HQ is located. More locations can resolve this.
And thirdly, Apple has had a growing problem with leaks over the years. It’s nothing new, but what is new is how potent of an issue it’s become. We nearly always know what Apple’s next keynote is going to announce, down to color variations and other nuanced details.
By building separate offices, Apple can reduce the likelihood of leaks and track down where leaks came from when they do occur.
Whatever the motivations, the location where these Apple wireless chips are going to be developed is a piece in a larger puzzle for the tech giant.
The scope of the project goes beyond cellular
The last piece of evidence revolves around what kind of wireless chips Apple is going to be developing. Initially, it was believed that these chips would just be cellular. This makes the most sense, as cellular plays a key role in how Apple’s products function and interact with one another.
New evidence, however, has pointed to these wireless chips being broader in nature. That means chips for connecting to WiFi as well as Bluetooth. Similar to cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth chips not only connect to other WiFi and Bluetooth devices but also manage these connections as well.
For example, Apple’s AirPods can automatically switch between Apple devices as you change which device you’re currently using. This is done by having the AirPods simultaneously connect to all of these devices at once, then transfer the primary connection based on which Apple device you’re interacting with.
As you can probably guess, that’s a tricky thing to manage, and it’s why this feature is a bit finicky. If Apple could make its own Bluetooth chips, however, then it could make this feature and others more reliable. The same goes for investing in WiFi.
Why would Apple design its own wireless chips?
Now that we’ve covered the evidence behind the rumors, it’s time to get into the “why”. Why is Apple suddenly deciding to start manufacturing its own wireless chips after years of relying on third-party suppliers?
As it turns out, there are a few reasons why this could be an advantageous move.
Independence from third-party suppliers
First, designing its own chips will give Apple independence from third-party suppliers. This is also one of the primary motivations that led to Apple leaving Intel chips behind starting in 2020. By creating its own chips, Apple has one less supplier to rely on.
Reducing its reliance on suppliers, most of which we’ll explore in the other points. But at the core of this is the freedom of operating independently. Apple will have increased control over the quality, consistency, features, scheduling, integration, form factor, and much, much more as a result of this move.
It’ll also be free from negotiations and contracts with Qualcomm and any other wireless chip providers it would work with. This could save Apple a significant amount of resources in the future, which could make the iPhone more affordable and/or powerful.
A more predictable supply chain
Another benefit of moving to Apple wireless chips over third-party options is that Apple will have a more predictable supply chain. Since the onset of COVID and even before, the tech world has been feeling the result of supply chain shortages. This has led to price hikes for chips, shortages of gaming consoles (like the Switch and PS5), and difficulty in acquiring computer parts like graphics cards.
Every supplier that Apple depends on presents the possibility of becoming a time-killer. Suppliers in other parts of the world could face shortages, shipping times could be delayed, and natural resources could be difficult to come by.
By designing and manufacturing the chips itself, Apple can dodge these shortages and embrace a more predictable supply chain. This could lead to shorter and more reliable launch dates, faster shipping times, fewer out-of-stock products, and more.
Apple can work on more powerful products
As we’ve seen from Apple adopting the M-series of chips for its Mac lineup, developing in-house chips seems to be an excellent upgrade for Apple devices. Apple has a knack for bringing exceptional engineering talent on board and getting the best from them.
We’ve seen this for years with how powerful the iPhone has remained, despite not having the technical specs that some of its Android competitors have. Similarly, the M-series Macs have been running circles around the competition since they launched, ringing in a new chapter for Mac performance.
With Apple wireless chips, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect similar performances. Apple will still be limited by the speeds offered by cell towers and WiFi providers when it comes to connectivity. But your devices’ ability to capitalize on those connections and max them out will likely increase with Apple-made chips.
Even more so than cellular and WiFi, however, I expect that Apple’s Bluetooth performance will become much more reliable. I hazard this guess because as of now, that’s the least reliable of Apple’s connectivity features. And that unreliability is largely due to factors that are outside of Apple’s control – or at least, it has been. Moving forward, though, this might not be the case anymore.
The Apple ecosystem will become even stronger
And that brings us to our final point, which is that Apple wireless chips have the potential to make the Apple ecosystem that much stronger. There are two key reasons for this.
First, Apple making its own chips has historically resulted in more powerful products. That’s because Apple can better integrate the hardware with the software, streamlining and boosting the efficiency of the device. This could improve the connection speeds you see and just all around improve the devices Apple releases.
Second, Apple could work to expand the features of its devices with wireless chips. It’s already done this with ultra-wide wireless tech. That’s how AirTags can give you an arrow pointing to where your lost item is. Apple could develop even more tech in this vein, making features like Universal Control smoother, AirTags more powerful, AirDrop more reliable, and more.
If the rumors are true, then Apple wireless chips should be a great thing for Apple and its customers
Although Apple hasn’t confirmed these rumors yet (and likely won’t until a product is announced), I think it’s more than likely that these reports are accurate. Apple wireless chips would line up with Apple’s overall strategy as of late, and the evidence seems straightforward and strong.
Just as with the Apple search engine rumors, the result can only be a good thing for Apple customers. It’ll make Apple’s products more powerful, affordable, and available, with new features and interplay between devices.
Time will tell if we see these rumors come to fruition!
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See you next time!