Qualcomm Introduces Snapdragon X60, Smaller 5G Modem Suitable for 2021 iPhones

Qualcomm this week introduced the Snapdragon X60, its third-generation 5G modem for mobile devices. The company says the first 5G smartphones featuring the X60 are expected to launch early next year.


Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to its 7nm-based predecessor, the Snapdragon X55. In the context of an iPhone, this could allow for longer battery life and more room inside the device for a larger battery or additional components.

Smartphones with the X60 will also be able to aggregate data from both mmWave and sub-6GHz bands simultaneously to achieve an optimal combination of high-speed and low-latency network coverage.


Multiple reports have indicated that Apple plans to use the Snapdragon X55 in its first 5G iPhone models, widely expected to be released later this year. The new X60 modem would be suitable for 2021 iPhones, but beyond that, it has been reported that Apple is developing its own modem for use in iPhones by 2022 or 2023.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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Apple Designing 5G iPhone Antenna Module In-House After Being Dissatisfied With Qualcomm’s Version

Apple is designing the antenna module that will be used in its 5G iPhones in-house because it was unhappy with the version that Qualcomm designed, reports Fast Company, citing a source with knowledge of Apple's plans.

Apple reportedly "balked" at the design of the QTM 525 5G millimeter-wave antenna module offered by Qualcomm because it "doesn't fit into the sleek industrial design Apple wants for the new phone."


Qualcomm will still provide the 5G modem chip used in the new iPhones, but the antenna module will be developed by Apple.

Apple is, however, working on another design that uses both the Qualcomm modem and the Qualcomm antenna as a backup, so Apple does have the option to swap over to a version of the iPhone that uses both Qualcomm components, but if forced to do so, Apple will need to release a slightly thicker ‌iPhone‌.

As Fast Company points out, Apple has run into problems with antennas designed in-house before. The ‌iPhone‌ 4, for example, had an antenna design that resulted in dropped calls and other problems when the ‌iPhone‌ was held in a way that covered the antennas. Fast Company's source says that another recent Apple antenna design "required twice as much power as comparable antennas to produce the same amount of radio signal."

Creating 5G antennas for mmWave networks is harder than creating other kinds of antennas because they send and receive higher frequency signals, leaving less room for error. 5G performance is also reliant on the antenna design.

The 2020 iPhones equipped with 5G will use a "phased array" antenna with two parts that work together to form a beam of radio signal, as described by Fast Company, which could lead to issues if the antenna and modem module are made by different companies.
The beam can be electronically steered in different directions without the antenna moving. The modem chip and the antenna module work closely together to make this work properly, our source said. Having the two parts made by different companies may introduce some uncertainty and bump up the difficulty level of the overall design.
Apple reportedly wants to use its own antennas both because of design reasons and because Apple wants as few Qualcomm parts in the ‌iPhone‌ as possible. Fast Company's source suggests that Apple continues to feel it is "getting screwed on royalties" by Qualcomm.

Rumors have suggested that Apple is working on developing its own modem chips for use in future iPhones, but that technology is not ready yet, and until it is, Apple is reliant on Qualcomm's 5G modem chips. Apple purchased Intel's modem chip business after Intel exited the mobile modem chip development market, which could speed up Apple's work on developing its own chip technology.


Apple is expected to release multiple 5G capable iPhones in 2020 that are equipped with Qualcomm's X55 5G modem chip that offers 7Gb/s peak download speeds and 3Gb/s upload speeds. For more on what to expect in the 2020 iPhones, make sure to check out our roundup.


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Apple CEO Tim Cook on 5G: ‘We’re Excited About Our Pipeline’

During today's earnings call covering the first fiscal quarter of 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about 5G, and how much of a demand driver it might be for Apple.

Cook of course said that he wouldn't comment on future Apple products with respect to 5G, but said 5G is in the "early innings of its deployment on a global basis."


Cook went on to say that Apple "couldn't be prouder" of its current iPhone lineup, and is excited about the upcoming product pipeline. "We wouldn't trade our position with anybody," he said.

In another question, Cook was asked about the demand for 5G and the demand for lower-cost iPhones, and how that might impact Apple's future ‌iPhone‌ product plans, which Cook also declined to comment on. He did say that in general, "it's important to look around the world at 5G deployment schedules." Cook said he will not comment on the price of handsets that are not announced.

Rumors suggest that Apple's 2020 iPhones will include 5G support for the first time, allowing the devices to connect to available mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G networks, which carriers are in the process of rolling out in the United States and around the world. Rumors indicate Apple will use Qualcomm's 5G chips for 5G connectivity.


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FCC Opens Up 3.5GHz Spectrum for Full Commercial Use, Apple’s Newest iPhones Already Offer Support

The United States Federal Communications Commission today cleared the way for OnGo [PDF], a wireless product spearheaded by the Citizens Broadcast Radio Service Alliance (CBRS) that aims to use the 3.5GHz band for a range of applications, including improving data speeds and connectivity across the United States on both 4G and 5G networks.

The CBRS Alliance announced that the FCC has allowed the Full Commercial Deployment of the OnGo service, which has been in the works since 2013 when the FCC first began pursuing a shared spectrum model for the 3.5GHz band.


Many major companies and government agencies came together as part of the CBRS Alliance to launch OnGo, including AT&T, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm, the FCC, the NTIA, the Department of Defense, and more, with the alliance boasting more than 159 members in total.

The 3.5GHz CBRS band will allow for new 4G and 5G operations, which the National Telecommunications and Information Administration says will create "tremendous value" for the United States by opening up capacity and coverage for 4G networks and facilitating the rollout of 5G.

Prior to the opening up of the 3.5GHz spectrum for commercial uses, it was used by the Department of Defense for shipborne radar systems. Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks built along the coast will reserve spectrum for ship radar systems, dynamically reassigning standard users to other parts of the band.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the 3.5GHz band will benefit both consumers and businesses through agreements with CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony who are now fully approved to operate commercial services in the band.
The FCC has made it a priority to free up mid-band spectrum for advanced wireless services like 5G. And today, I'm pleased to announce the latest step to achieve that priority: the approval of four systems that will enable the 3.5 GHz band to be put to use for the benefit of American consumers and businesses. As with all of our efforts to execute on the 5G FAST plan, we're pushing to get next-generation wireless services deployed in the 3.5 GHz band as quickly and efficiently as possible.
OnGo is the name that the CBRS Alliance is using for the 3.5GHz spectrum. The CBRS Alliance says that OnGo empowers new business opportunities in workplaces, in public spaces where consumers will be able to use the spectrum, and for machine-to-machine communications or sensors for enabling a smarter infrastructure.

In simpler terms, OnGo facilitates private LTE networks, offers better performance than Wi-Fi, provides spectrum without cost that can be used for a multitude of purposes, allows wireless carriers to add coverage and capacity and improve data, and it boosts IoT connectivity in the longer-range level currently limited to Low-Power Wide Area Networks.

Apple's newest iPhones, including the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, already support OnGo, or CBRS Band 48, and iPhone users could be seeing OnGo benefits in the near future. Verizon, for example, is a customer of Federated Wireless, one of the companies authorized to use the spectrum. Federated Wireless has already said that it plans to initiate CBRS services for more than 20 of its major customers in both urban and rural markets.

Along with the ‌iPhone‌, other major smartphones also work with CBRS Band 48, including Samsung's Galaxy S10 devices and Google's Pixel 4 smartphones.

Tags: FCC, LTE, 5G, 5G iPhone

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Apple Supplier Shrinks Down Capacitors Needed for 5G iPhone, Freeing Up Valuable Internal Space

Apple is planning to implement 5G technology in all of the iPhones coming in 2020, and Apple's suppliers are gearing up for the transition. One supplier, Murata Manufacturing, recently developed an "ultrasmall" version of a key electronic component, which will allow Apple to free up a bit of valuable space in its 5G iPhones.

According to Japanese news site Nikkei, Murata Manufacturing is set to start mass producing tiny multilayer ceramic capacitors that take up one-fifth of the space of the existing capacitors, but also offer 10 times the electrical storage capacity.


Each individual capacitor measures in at 0.25mm by 0.125mm, which is miniscule. The capacitors are designed to regulate power usage within circuits used in the iPhone, and to create its ultrasmall capacitors, Murata was able to refine the ceramic powder that provides the base material for the sheets used in the capacitor, which allows more sheets to be stacked up for higher capacity without more space consumed on a circuit board.

5G technology is a bigger power drain than 4G technology, necessitating larger batteries and more efficient components. Murata's new capacitors will give smartphone designers like Apple freedom to use that space for other important components within the ‌iPhone‌, such as higher-capacity batteries.

There's no confirmation that Apple is going to use Murata's technology, but it seems likely as Murata is a supplier for Apple. Murata also works with other smartphone companies such as Huawei.

Apple is planning to introduce at least three new iPhones in the fall of 2020, all of which are expected to include 5G technology to allow the ‌iPhone‌ to take advantage of 5G networks and better compete with Android smartphones.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
Tags: 5G, 5G iPhone

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T-Mobile Launches 600MHz 5G Network Across United States

T-Mobile today announced that its 600MHz 5G network has gone live across the United States, bringing 5G connectivity to those who have a compatible smartphone.

According to T-Mobile, its 5G network covers more than 200 million people and more than 1 million square miles, though connectivity is limited to the OnePlus 7T 5G McLaren and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, both of which are launching on the T-Mobile network this Friday.


There are currently no iPhones that are compatible with T-Mobile's 5G network, with Apple planning to release its first iPhones that support 5G connectivity in 2020.

T-Mobile's 5G network is a 600MHz network, which gives it greater range than the mmWave 5G networks other carriers like AT&T and Verizon are focusing on, but less speed. T-Mobile's 5G is faster than 4G, but it won't reach some of the blazing fast speeds that are possible with mmWave technology.

When 5G is mentioned, most people are talking about millimeter wave spectrum, which offers blazing fast data transfer speeds, but it is sensitive to interference from buildings, trees, and other obstacles and it is best suited to use in dense, urban locations.


5G in rural and suburban areas will be on mid and low-bands, which is also known as sub-6GHz 5G, simply because of the restrictions of the mmWave technology. From T-Mobile CEO John Legere:
"5G is here on a nationwide scale. This is a HUGE step towards 5G for All. While Dumb and Dumber focus on 5G for the (wealthy) Few, launching in just a handful of cities -- and forcing customers into their most expensive plans to get 5G -- we're committed to building broad, deep nationwide 5G that people and businesses can access at no extra cost with the New T-Mobile ... and today is just the start of that journey."
T-Mobile says that its 5G network goes "far beyond the limitations" of 5G networks from other carriers, bringing 5G to more people in more places, with coverage available in a map on the T-Mobile website. According to T-Mobile, after its merger with Sprint is completed, the new larger company will be able to further expand its 5G network.


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Apple Expected to Lead 5G Smartphone Shipments in 2020

Though Apple has not yet come out with a 5G iPhone, the company is expected to lead the 5G smartphone market in 2020, according to a new report today from analytics firm Strategy Analytics.

Apple is expected to capture a dominant share of the emerging 5G market in 2020, following the launch of 5G iPhones. Strategy Analytics believes that Apple simply needs to match its current upgrade rates to dominate the 5G market after September 2020.

"It may seem counterintuitive that Apple, which currently has no 5G phones in its portfolio will be able to pass current 5G market leaders Samsung and Huawei," comments Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics. "But with three new 5G models coming next year, Apple merely needs to match its current upgrade rates for newly introduced iPhone models to take the lead next year."

"Currently Samsung is the undisputed market leader in 5G smartphones," comments Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics. "But with the two largest 5G markets in 2020, China and the USA, dominated by Huawei and Apple respectively, these two vendors are set to lead in 5G next year."
All of the iPhones coming in 2020 are expected to include 5G technology, according to well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo originally believed that only the two higher-end iPhones coming in 2020 would support 5G, but later revised his prediction.

Apple will offer 5G speeds for all of its smartphones in order to better compete with lower-cost Android smartphones that support 5G. We're expecting a total of three iPhones in 2020, including a 5.4-inch model, a 6.7-inch model, and a 6.1-inch model.

The 5.4 and 6.7-inch iPhones are expected to be higher-end devices similar to the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, while the 6.1-inch iPhone will feature a lower price tag much like the iPhone 11.

Though Apple is expected to do well in the 5G smartphone market in 2020, Strategy Analytics ultimately believes that Samsung will be the 5G leader longterm due to its "dominance of the overall smartphone market" and broader range of price points.

Huawei's success, meanwhile, is limited by the US trade ban, but it is still expected to be the dominant 5G smartphone provider in China.

For more on Apple's plans for a ‌5G iPhone‌, make sure to check out our guide.


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Report: Apple to Use Qualcomm’s X55 5G Modem in All Three 2020 iPhones

Apple's 2020 iPhones will all use Qualcomm's newest and fastest 5G-capable modem chip, claims a new report out of Asia today.


Apple is expected to launch three iPhones next year in 5.4-inch, 6.1-inch, and 6.7-inch sizes. According to Nikkei Asian Review, all three will carry the 5G modem chip designed by Qualcomm called the X55.
All three of the new iPhones will carry the most advanced 5G modem chip, known as X55 that is designed by U.S. mobile chip developer Qualcomm, four people familiar with the plan told Nikkei. The chip, which enables much faster downloads, faces such an increase in demand that there could be supply constraints, one person added.
The X55 chip offers 7Gb/s peak download speeds and 3Gb/s upload speeds, though these numbers are theoretical maximums and actual speeds will depend on carrier network. The chip is Qualcomm's first 5G chip that supports all major frequency bands, operation modes, and network deployments.

The X55 is also more power efficient than Qualcomm's X50 chip, which means it will draw less energy and will have less of an impact on battery life when connected to a 5G network.

Apple was originally planning to use Intel chips in its 2020 5G iPhones, but Intel is out of the smartphone chip business and Apple has no choice but to use Qualcomm's modem chips.

Apple aims to ship 80 million 5G-capable iPhones next year, claims the report. Apple typically ships between 75 and 80 million new iPhones each year, and it plans to close in on similar targets in 2020 and exploit 5G as a key sales driver, according to Nikkei.
"It will be the first time Apple introduces 5G iPhones ... There will be three of them and the company has set an aggressive sales target," one of the people familiar with the company's thinking said.
In July, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple will offer 5G in all three of its new flagship iPhone models to better compete with lower-cost Android smartphones that will support 5G.

Apple's embrace of 5G is expected to push carriers such as AT&T and Verizon to accelerate their investment in the rollout of 5G infrastructure and catch up with China's rapidly accelerating 5G capabilities.

By 2025, London-based GSMA estimates that China will have 600 million 5G subscribers, or about 40 percent of the global total, notes Nikkei, citing a Financial Times report.

Today's report also corroborates previous rumors that Apple will switch to a 5-nanometer fabrication process for its A14 processor next year. Apple has used a 7nm process since the A12 Bionic chip debuted in 2018, and TSMC has been Apple's exclusive supplier.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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Kuo: All Three iPhones Coming in 2020 Will Support 5G

The three iPhones expected to launch in 2020 will feature support for 5G, according to a new note to investors shared today by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and obtained by MacRumors.

Kuo originally said that two of the three new iPhones coming in 2020 will support 5G, but now believes that Apple will offer 5G in all models to better compete with lower-cost Android smartphones that will support 5G. Kuo also says that following Apple's acquisition of Intel's smartphone modem chip business, Apple has more resources for developing the 5G iPhone.

We now believe that all three new 2H20 iPhone models will support 5G for the following reasons. (1) Apple has more resource for developing the 5G iPhone after the acquisition of Intel baseband business. (2) We expect that the prices of 5G Android smartphones will decline to $249-349 USD in 2H20. We believe that 5G Android smartphones, which will be sold at $249-349 USD, will only support Sub-6GHz. But the key is that consumers will think that 5G is the necessary function in 2H20. Therefore, iPhone models which will be sold at higher prices have to support 5G for winning more subsidies from mobile operators and consumers' purchase intention. (3) Boosting 5G developments could benefit Apple's AR ecosystem.
Kuo says that he expects all three new iPhone models coming in 2020 to support both mmWave and Sub-6GHz spectrum to meet the requirements of the American market, but it is not clear if Apple will launch a 5G iPhone that only supports Sub-6GHz, which would allow for a lower price. He says Apple may not have enough development resources for such a project.
Apple may have the intention to launch the 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz, to gain market share by lowering the cost/price for markets which only support Sub-6GHz (e.g., Chinese market). However, 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz and the version which supports mmWave & Sub-6GHz are regarded as different projects even though they share the same form factor design.
For those unfamiliar with 5G networks, there are actually two different kinds of 5G. mmWave technology is the super fast 5G that's most often talked about, but not all 5G networks are going to use mmWave technology in all areas because it's best suited to denser urban areas.

In rural and suburban areas, 5G technology will be on mid-bands and low-bands, called sub-6GHz 5G. It's still faster than 4G, but not as fast as mmWave. When 5G finishes rolling out, there will be some areas with mmWave technology where data transfer speeds will be lightning quick, coupled with other more expansive areas that are closer to 4G LTE speeds.

Over time, low-band and mid-band 5G speeds should also get much quicker, but at launch, won't be as fast as mmWave, which is most often in the spotlight.

Apple is planning to use modem chips from Qualcomm in its 2020 5G iPhone lineup, despite its recent acquisition of Intel's smartphone modem chip business. Apple is working on its own modem chips, but that technology isn't going to be ready until 2021.

Along with 5G technology, the 2020 iPhones could be available in new sizes. In a previous note, Kuo said that Apple is going to release 5.4 and 6.7-inch high-end iPhones with OLED displays along with a 6.1-inch model with an OLED display. More information on what to expect in the 2020 iPhones can be found in the dedicated what's next section of our 2019 iPhone roundup.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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Apple in Talks to Purchase Intel’s German Modem Unit

Apple is in talks to buy Intel's German modem unit, which could help the Apple develop its own modem chips more quickly, reports The Information.

Intel is considering selling its modem business in pieces, and this is not the first time we've heard word that Apple's interested in a purchase. Back in April, The Wall Street Journal said that Apple had held discussions with Intel about acquiring parts of the Intel modem chip business, and apparently, those talks are ongoing.

Intel 5G Modem
Any deal between Apple and Intel would likely include Intel patents and products, said one person briefed on the discussions. Such an arrangement would resemble the deal Apple reached with Dialog Semiconductor, a U.K.-based company that designs chips that handle power management chores in devices. Last year, Apple and Dialog struck a $600 million deal that brought 300 Dialog employees to Apple, along with some patents.
The two companies have been in discussions since last year, but The Information warns that the talks could still fall through without a deal.

The Information estimates that a deal for Intel's German modem business could bring "hundreds" of modem engineers to Apple. Intel's chip production facilities are headquartered in Germany after a 2011 purchase of chip maker Infineon.

Intel announced in April that it was exiting the 5G smartphone modem business, sharing the news just hours after Apple and Qualcomm announced a resolution to their ongoing legal battle and established a new supply deal.

Apple had been planning to use Intel's 5G chips for its 2020 iPhones, but rumors indicated Intel wasn't able to meet design deadlines, causing the relationship between the two companies to sour. Apple is now planning to use Qualcomm's 5G modem chips in its 2020 5G iPhones, and is also working on its own modem chip development for later devices.

In the future, Apple is aiming to reduce its dependence on suppliers like Qualcomm by creating its own modem chips, but the company still has a few years to go before the technology is ready. According to The Information, Apple has been telling new modem chip hires in San Diego that it doesn't expect to release devices with its own modem chips until 2025.


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