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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DigiTimes: 5G Era to Usher in Wide Adoption of Higher Refresh Rate Smartphone Displays

Back in July, we reported on a rumor that Apple is considering using a switchable 60Hz/120Hz refresh rate screen on its 2020 iPhones, allowing for a smoother on-screen experience. DigiTimes now reports that industry observers believe many 5G-era smartphones are likely to use upgraded displays capable of up to 120Hz refresh rates, reigniting speculation that next year's iPhones could use Apple's ProMotion display tech.


However, DigiTimes notes that whether Apple will adopt displays with a 120Hz refresh rate "remains to be seen."
The arrival of 5G is ushering in hardware upgrades to support related applications and services. It is expected more 5G smartphones will come with displays offering high refresh rates that can enhance user experience. It remains to be seen whether Apple will launch its first 5G iPhone in 2020, or will adopt displays with 120Hz refresh rate...
The DigiTimes article bases its prediction on the penetration rate of over 120Hz panels in the gaming notebook segment. Observers note that this has surpassed 30 percent and is still growing, which is prompting panel makers to step into the sector and develop panels with refresh rates ranging from 120Hz to 240Hz.

The gaming-oriented Razer Phone 2 has such a panel with a fast refresh rate, while Asustek's ROG Phone II, which launched in the second half of 2019, also boasts one. DigiTimes also notes that the Google's Pixel 4 comes with a 90Hz display and Sharp's recently released Aquos R3 features a 6.2-inch IGZO 120Hz display, while several Chinese brands are expected to roll out models with higher refresh rates in 2020.


Having a similar display on a new iPhone without sacrificing battery life would obviously be a big draw. Apple already uses variable refresh rate technology in its iPad Pro models, and markets the tech under the moniker "ProMotion," which it says dynamically adjusts the display to the movement of content for fluid scrolling, greater responsiveness, and smoother motion. It does all this on the fly, which means it also conserves battery life.

Of course, Apple's ‌iPad Pro‌ models use LCD panels rather than OLED, and rumors have suggested Apple will complete its transition to an all-OLED iPhone lineup in 2020 with new 5.4-inch, 6.1-inch, and 6.7-inch devices.

If Apple is indeed in discussion with Samsung and LG to bring a ProMotion-style screen to a new breed of OLED iPhones, as one leaker claimed earlier this year, then it would raise next year's smartphone performance bar even higher.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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Future iPhones Expected to Adopt Apple Watch’s Low-Power LTPO Display Technology

Apple plans to use a low-power backplane technology called LTPO for future iPhones, according to Korean website The Elec. The backplane is responsible for turning individual pixels on and off on the display.


From the report:
Apple, meanwhile, is moving to more widely apply LTPO panels to its iPhones. This means it needs to find ways to work together with Samsung Display, which is holding its own in terms of both technological prowess and production capacity in the small and mid-sized OLED sector.
LTPO, or low-temperature polycrystalline oxide, has an Oxide TFT structure that uses up to 15 percent less power than LTPS, or low-temperature polysilicon, the backplane technology that Apple currently uses. Naturally, that could contribute to longer battery life on future iPhones.

Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 models already feature LTPO displays. Apple's website says the technology enables Series 5 models to have the same up-to-18-hour battery life as Series 4 models despite having an always-on display:
The low temperature poly-silicon and oxide display features a reinvented pixel architecture that lets the screen refresh rate dip from 60Hz to a power-sipping 1Hz when the watch is inactive. A new low-power driver, ultra-efficient power management, and a new ambient light sensor work together so the display can stay always on with up to 18 hours of battery life.
Apple's transition to OLED started small with the original ‌Apple Watch‌ in 2015, followed by the iPhone X in 2017, so it would not be surprising if LTPO expands from the Watch to the iPhone as early as next year.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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